Smartphones to get police on the beat

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2012
GET SMART: Police Commissioner Peter Marshall discusses the project to provide frontline police with devices such as smartphones, laptops and iPads with Constable Harriet Murray, centre, and Detective Constable Andrea Quinn, of Lower Hutt Police.
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

GET SMART: Police Commissioner Peter Marshall discusses the project to provide frontline police with devices such as smartphones, laptops and iPads with Constable Harriet Murray, centre, and Detective Constable Andrea Quinn, of Lower Hutt Police.

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Smartphones worth more than $5 million could be rolled out to frontline police throughout New Zealand in an effort to get more staff out of the office and on to the street to prevent crime.

Inspector Simon Feltham said this week that 5000 of the latest Blackberrys or iPhones could be made available to staff by June 30 next year. Additional iPads or HP Elitebooks, a laptop which doubles as a tablet, could also be made available to some staff.

The retail value of 5000 of the latest iPhones is more than $5m. However, police hope to secure a cheaper deal with cellphone providers.

Mr Feltham would not reveal how much police had budgeted for the new phones because of commercial sensitivity, but admitted the roll-out of the new technology "is not cheap".

The announcement comes as police battle to work within a tight budget, with Commissioner Peter Marshall confirming 125 police support-staff positions will go throughout the country.

Mr Marshall said this week the roll-out of the phones had already been included in the police budget.

"I don't think there is any question about it being a smart investment."

The phones would make police more efficient and allow staff to get out of the office and spend more time on the street preventing crime. "They [frontline staff trialling the phones] are saying 'this is fantastic'.

In the past you'd go into police stations and there are too many police officers sitting around in there with computers in stations. I want to get them out on the road [because] visibility is usually important."

More than 100 staff in Lower Hutt, Hawke's Bay, the West Coast and Counties Manukau West have been trialling the phones since February.

This month staff in those areas were also given the iPad and HP Elitebook to use. The devices, which are connected to email and the internet, have been fitted with an application called eQuip which allows police to remotely check vehicle details and a person's criminal history.

The application also gives a GPS position of each police unit and allows staff to enter information about jobs they attend.

The application will be expanded this month to allow police to carry out bail checks.

Mr Feltham said results were "overwhelmingly positive" and staff feedback suggested the devices were saving officers up to an hour a day.

A decision would be made by the police executive in September about which brand of device police would choose and how widespread the roll-out to staff would be, he said.

"We're looking at the majority of frontline staff. It depends what role needs what device."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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