The first months of equipping London coppers with mobile devices has produced positive feedback, according to the project's lead officer
The Metropolitan Police Force is considering an extension of its mobile technology pilot after being impressed with the results since it was launched in July of last year.
Superintendent Adrian Hutchinson, the force's lead for mobile technology, told UKAuthority that the 500 officers using iPad minis to access back end systems from the streets have provided positive feedback. This has led the Met to consider extending the pilot to more officers, other devices and accessing further systems.
Discussions are taking place and there are hopes that an extension could be approved within the next few days.
The pilot has been run as part of the force's Total Technology strategy with the support of Vodafone UK, with which the Met has had a framework agreement for procuring mobile technology. It has provided the devices, 4G connectivity and secure device management.
"We are hoping to extend the pilot and try it within a number of departments because we would hope for some potentially disproportionate benefits," Hutchinson said. "The Met is a huge organisation and there is a great diversity in policing, and there may be some departments we could transform with the use of IT.
"We have ideas about which departments could make use of the technology but its proof will come from effective pilots within them.
"One of the keys will be not to be led not by IT but to engage with the business groups to understand how we can assist them."
The technology is providing officers with access to back end systems through a collection of applications designed by the force. They can use it for emails, to report child protection concerns, provide victims with crime numbers, provide information to investigations on crime recording systems and take statements from witnesses.
Hutchinson said the ability to record statements and take photos, which can be embedded in the systems and forensically timed, has been a highly valuable evidential tool in dealing with domestic violence cases.
"There are suggestions that because of the way we have changed the front end the data quality is improving, he said. "There are different applications for different back end systems but the feedback from staff is that they are far easier to use than the old systems, and they need just a few minutes training."
He attributed the good feedback partly to the fact that most beat officers are younger, many coming from 'Generation Y' (born between the early 1980s and early 2000s), and have grown up using IT.
But he acknowledged that there are still cultural obstacles to overcome. These are partly in the form of police officers who are used to the long established patterns of working and slower to pick up on the advantages of mobile devices, but also from some members of the public who cannot understand that officers are using tablets for legitimate police business on the beat.
Hutchinson added that the Met has been talking with other police forces that have been using mobile technology, and praised the commercial organisations that have provided assistance.
"There are some companies doing some fantastic work in this area, and because we are not a commercial threat they have been happy to talk to us, for which we are very grateful," he said. "As an organisation we're prepared to learn from the commercial world and we can have a helpful discussion about using IT for the public good."
Picture from Vodafone