More than 5,000 smartphones and tablets have been handed out to officers in Yorkshire’s largest police force in the last three years as part of a £4m project to allow them to spend more time on the front line.
A report by West Yorkshire Police says the performance of the Samsung devices has increased every month for the last year and that they “are now widely used by the majority of front line officers”.
But it warned that the force was a “victim of our own ambition” by developing devices more advanced than those in any other force, meaning some officers find it difficult to get used to them.
As part of the scheme, more than 4,400 Samsung Note 3 devices have been issued to officers “in front-facing roles”, 550 Samsung S5 Neo devices given to staff in back office roles, and 200 Samsung eight inch tablets to crime scene investigators.
The Note 3 devices, which have a 5.7 inch screen and 13-megapixel camera, are for sale on Amazon for £350. They allow officers to access the NICHE and STORM computer systems for crime recording and managing incidents.
Other mobile applications allow officers to enter details of missing and found people, witness statements and domestic violence risk assessments.
The report, by Chief Inspector Ia Williams of West Yorkshire Police, said: “Performance has increased month on month for the last 12 months and the devices are now widely used by the majority of front line officers.
“Canvassing the knowledge of experienced users, the average time spent creating or updating NICHE records and forms when used comprehensively is calculated at 31 minutes per shift.
“A further 1.5 hours is spent accessing email, tasks and Storm for each officer per shift. This offers a significant contribution to increasing the visibility of front line officers.”
The report adds that by opting for mobile apps that are fully integrated with the police’s systems and available offline, “WYP took the product to a level that others forces had not attempted to achieve”.
It said the complexity of the devices and the security of the data were challenges to officers, and cited a cultural change where “officers expect the same functionality as their own smart phone but this is often restricted”.
Describing the use of the new systems, the report said: “It is difficult to find an officer who uses it, who does not like it. However, they will all have stories of the difficult path in getting acquainted with it in the first place.
“The Cultural Revolution is being led by new recruits who are often the highest users. They are not shackled by fear of new processes.
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “The process and rollout of these handheld mobile devices started with the formation an internal Transformation Fund back in 2014, which I identified as a key enabler to invest in technological change and modernisation of working practices for officers and staff.
“These devices replaced paper pocket note books but also have the ability for phased apps to be added which means paperwork that could once only be completed back at the station can now be done whilst out and about in our communities.
“People often tell me about how much they value visible policing and these devices are pivotal in helping frontline officers and staff spend more time in our communities, saving time and ensuring West Yorkshire Police are the forefront in using the most effective and up to date technology which is as future proof as it can be.
“It is very important to invest in the most appropriate new technology and to give West Yorkshire Police the resources required to continue in helping to keep us all safe and feeling safe and this is a key programme in bringing that about.”