Should frontline police be given iPads and iPhones?
A Lower Hutt police officer says new mobile technology trialled here will greatly improve efficiency for frontline police nationwide.
On Wednesday it was announced smartphones and tablets that were trialled for most of last year by two Lower Hutt police sections will be rolled out to thousands of frontline officers throughout the country from April.
Sergeant Bruce Cook, who participated in the trial, says estimates each officer could gain half an hour of productivity a shift are probably conservative.
In the past, information could only be relayed to officers outside the station by radio. Without switching to a backup channel, only one communication could take up the airwaves at a time, with high priority jobs tying up the frequency.
"Now that we've got them they've become indispensable", he says.
The gadgets allow police direct communication with other officers, access to databases and computer systems while on the move, and the ability to record information directly into their systems.
The smartphones also give the ability to take photos on the spot.
"We can phone the complainants and victims while we're out and about instead of coming back to the station to make those calls," Mr Cook says.
Recently the devices helped lead to prosecutions when officers found evidence of part of an old discarded car licence in a Wainuiomata house while executing a search warrant.
Mr Cook says mobile checks revealed the car was stolen, and allowed them to match the make and model with a seemingly different rebadged car parked nearby. A call was placed to the supposed owner of that car, who said he didn't know it existed, and then to the owner of the stolen car, who lived nearby and came to the scene. He activated a remote that unlocked the vehicle.
"Had I not had the mobile device I couldn't have done that all at the [same] time [while we] actioned the search warrant."
In many cases thorough checks and data entry are now already completed by the end of a conversation.
Those trying to give a false name are stymied by identification photos on police databases.
Increased ease of operation has boosted morale too, he says.
"It's fantastic, it's very rare from a front line perspective that something comes along to make your job easier."
The devices receive full coverage in every area of the Hutt Valley, Mr Cook says.
Equipping 6,086 frontline officers with tablets and smartphones is expected to cost $4.3 million. However police data claims the efficiency gains are estimated to equate to another 345 frontline staff.
Police Association President Greg O'Connor welcomes the tools, but says more information is needed about who's paying.
"There is no detail in the releases, so far, as to where the $4.3 million in capital and $159 million in operating costs is coming from.
"I can only hope it is additional funding, and not funding that Police have to find on top of the 5% districts are already having to save for the second year running," he says.
Trials were also done by officers in Counties-Manukau West, Napier and the West Coast policing areas.
- Hutt News