A police boss has revealed a high tech revolution will help to keep bobbies out on the beat.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones has described the project to equip every frontline police officer with a sophisticated mobile communications app that cuts form-filling and even checks fingerprints as a “game-changer”.
The app will be loaded on mobile phones and laptops as part of the four-year digital communications strategy which also aims to keep communities across the region and their local policing teams in close contact.
It will mean that officers will be able to spend more time out on the streets catching crooks and helping the public and cut lengthy bureaucracy back at the police station.
The project is one of the last flagship programmes of Commissioner Jones, who has announced will be standing down at the next election which is due to be held on May 6.
His final precept-setting proposal for a 29p weekly increase, a 5.5 per cent rise costing Band D Council Taxpayers just £14.94 extra a year, has just been approved unanimously by the North Wales Police and Crime Panel.
Superintendent Paul Jones is said: “The development of this frontline app for mobile phones and laptops will revolutionise the way we work.
“It will bring North Wales Police to the forefront of the Forces in the UK when it comes to digital frontline capability.
“We aim to have an all-encompassing app that enables us to do everything we need to do out there – it will even check someone’s fingerprints.
“It will be very user-friendly and as easy to operate as any commercial app– one function on it will search all the different computer systems that we need to access simultaneously, including the Police National Computer. It will all be quicker, more intuitive and more accurate.
“If an officer can do all their paperwork at the scene electronically, without duplication and without having to go back to the station, it’s a big saving of time which can then be spent on the front line.
“At the same time if the control room contacts an officer, a lot of the information needed will already be on the mobile phone or laptop, even including satnav directions. This means that the officer won’t have to waste time taking notes, speaking to control or conducting lengthy computer searches.
“It is a significant investment but the time we will save and can reinvest in the community makes it money well spent.
“We have worked with app providers to ensure we will have the same connectivity as other forces who have similar apps.
“We have also worked with our officers to prioritise their needs and we hope to have the system finalised for rollout towards the end of the year.
“We do need to undertake a competitive tendering process, conduct functionality tests and make a final assessment, but the plan is to have the app rolled out as soon as we can.
“We want everyone on the frontline whose job will be made more efficient, more accurate and more effective, to have this.
“That includes Community Support Officers and Crime Scene Investigators for example, in addition to response officers and detectives.
Mr Jones, a former Police Inspector himself, said: “As someone who knows what it’s like to be on the frontline of policing, I welcome this and the part played in its introduction by the Chief Constable, Carl Foulkes, who is the National Police Lead on innovation and technology.
“It’s really exciting to be making this announcement because it’s something we’re really proud of and it something that our frontline officers really want and will find of huge benefit to them. It’s going to be a gamechanger.
“This is part of the connected officer’s project which is about giving our officers more time out on the streets by equipping them with devices like laptops, notebooks and mobile phones that can do everything they would once have had to go back to the station to do.
“Instead, they can now do this while they’re out, in the street or even in the local café which means more time with the public.
“It’s a much more efficient use of their time and means they only have to do things once rather than two or three times.”
The project is one of a series of measures set out in the Commissioner’s policing plan.
It’s being launched against a backdrop of £2.9 million of savings identified by Force despite the £33 million a year cuts inflicted on North Wales Police as a result of Conservative austerity cuts since 2010.
The Force’s digital communications project also aims to keep communities and their local policing teams in closer contact and Superintendent Helen Corcoran said: “It will enable members of the local community to get online to reach their local policing teams with any concerns they have.
“At the same time, we can warn the public of specific local threats and keep them up to date with what we are doing, where and when.”
North Wales Police will also be bolstered by 62 new officers with 20 of joining a new task force to spearhead a crime prevention drive helping and another ten bolstering the fight against Serious and Organised Crime in the region.