Earlier this year, over 1,100 of Bedfordshire’s frontline police force were outfitted with Blackberry cell phones. Sir Ronnie Flanagan of Police Review feels that for the first time, Bedfordshire police will be able to submit written (typed) documents in from the field as well as access data bases and other systems like their crime management system, intelligence database, warrants, Police National Legal Database, and its custom-built briefings application without the need of a computer. The idea behind the program is to decrease the need for the officers to be at their desks and increase their visibility in public.
Before the program was launched, a research team spent time with several Bedfordshire officers on the front lines in order to identify the specific needs of the officers in order to maximize efficiency and meet the officers’ daily demands. A spokesman for the department estimates that the program is currently saving the average officer a half of an hour to an hour of time per day. An hour a day saved multiplied by 1,100 officers equals significant savings, especially during such a severe economical situation as the UK is currently facing.
The significance of the program is being compared to the implementation of walki-talkies to the police force. Bedfordshire police Inspector Jim Hitch says: “I liken this to the change from Police boxes to Police radio. That was a huge step and quite expensive and had its doubters who asked why we needed radios. What we’re moving to now with these devices is a similar sort of scenario. There are people doubting and asking why we need them but I think that will become clearer and we will depend on these devices more and more and wonder how we ever did without them.”
Equipping police with smart phones seems like a no brainer, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar to this come to police forces in the US in the near future. Let’s just hope the smart phones come with a block on Facebook.