10-minute 'homicide' a slip of the finger

MEGAN MILLER
Last updated 12:38 20/07/2013

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New Zealand police communications centres are dealing with a crime wave that includes a spike in short-lived homicide investigations.

But it's not quite as serious as it sounds.

The mobility device rollout that began in April put thousands of iPhones and iPads into the hands of frontline police, in a multi-million-dollar programme intended to gain staff an estimated 30 minutes of productivity per shift.

But its "teething problems" also include more opportunities for human error.

Frontline staff can now log jobs directly from their devices into the software programme used by communications staff to manage calls to service.

Police scroll through a dropdown menu and select the appropriate task. The menu covers everything from attending a domestic dispute to conducting a road checkpoint.

On a small touchscreen, it's easy to make mistakes - and a fair few have apparently been made.

July 10 saw what could have been the shortest homicide investigation in South Canterbury history, opened and closed in the about 10 minutes.

The "homicide", which appeared in listings made available to media, was a data entry error.

On Thursday morning, South Canterbury was briefly the site of a nonexistent toxic spill that a Christchurch communications centre spokesman confirmed was the result of a data entry error from a mobility device.

Communications centre staff have been seeing "a lot of homicides lately" as the new system goes through "teething problems", the spokesman said.

Police national headquarters media staff said it was too early to be able to provide any figures around the new processes.

"We expect to have viable data in the months to come."

Data entry errors should not affect official New Zealand crime statistics, the spokesman said.

"Once jobs have been assigned to officers and a case is generated, there are numerous checking processes before that raw data finally makes it way to becoming a police statistic."

Nationally, 6259 police officers were issued an iPhone, and 3702 were also issued an iPad. They would gain staff about 520,000 hours of productivity a year, Police Commissioner Peter Marshall said in February.

The initial cost was $4.3 million, with $159m in operating expenses over the next 12 years.

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- The Timaru Herald

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