Mobile Technology in Policing - Public Accounts Committee Contents

2   Implementing the Mobile Information Programme

7.  In addition to the £71 million of central funding distributed to police forces under the Programme, the Department provided a further £9 million to the Agency to deliver the management of the Programme, central framework contracts and benefits measurement.[15] In addition to the central funding provided, the 32 police forces who responded to the NAO survey spent an additional £23 million since 2008-09.[16]

8.  The business case for the Programme included three objectives: to support the increased the visibility of police officers, to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Police Service and to reduce bureaucracy.[17] The Programme's business case included a narrow range of implementation options but did not consider how forces would use mobile technology or the amount of local spending required. The business case did not assess the number of devices that each force would need to deploy to meet the three objectives or consider the impact of partially equipping forces.[18] Police forces told us that from the outset the Department and the Agency's focus was on getting devices into the hands of police officers quickly rather than on the business benefits from the use of mobile devices; there was little thought given to baseline performance, the benefits or the outcomes required, and the rush to deliver devices to a strict timetable meant that opportunities to derive business benefits from process improvement could not be taken by all forces.[19]

9.  The Agency's evaluation of the increase in police officer visibility showed that on average officers spent around 18 minutes extra per shift out of the station through the use of mobile devices.[20] The Agency also reported, but could not fully explain why, some forces spent extra time in the station as a result of using devices.[21] There was little central measurement by the Agency of the other programme objectives, to increase efficiency and effectiveness, and to reduce bureaucracy.[22] This lack of evaluation has prevented a clear understanding of the Programme's benefits across the police service.[23]

10.  The police forces who gave evidence to us said that they had made improvements as a result of the Programme which had enabled them to reduce the number of back office staff and to make cash savings, in addition to increasing officer visibility. For example:

  • Wiltshire Police told us that they had invested around £1.7 million in changing the way they work, reorganising business processes and reducing control room staff. [24]
  • Hampshire Police told us that the time savings from using mobile devices have allowed them to employ fewer people in back office functions. For example, officers can now take a statement at the house of a victim or witness, have it signed electronically on the mobile device, and send it straight to the custody suite at the police station and into the electronic court file.[25]
  • The Metropolitan Police told us that they had made savings by using mobile devices to issue tickets, such as fixed penalty notices, instead of paper forms. Information from the ticket is fed via the mobile device directly to back office systems without the need to re-type the information.[26]

11.  While there are clearly some high performing forces, the levels of performance and savings are not consistent across the Police Service. Only one in five forces has used the technology effectively to improve their operational processes.[27] In addition the Programme has resulted in significant system-wide variation, in: the number of devices in use, (some forces have no devices, whereas others have sufficient for all officers and supporting staff); the amount of business change activity undertaken; and, the amount of additional efficiency savings made on top of the additional officer time spent out of the station. This variation has limited the amount of cash and efficiency savings resulting from the £71 million invested. [28] While the Association of Chief Police Officers encourages forces to use the Agency's Police Online Knowledge Area to share best practice, and conducts specific workshops and seminars, more needs to be done to enable all forces to benefit to the same extent as the high performing forces.[29]

12.  During our hearing the Department claimed that the Programme would deliver around £500 million cashable savings.[30] Subsequently the Department provided a note to say that it actually estimated £125 million cashable savings; arising from process efficiencies in areas such as crime recording and issuing fixed penalty notices.[31] However, the 32 forces who responded to the National Audit Office survey only reported total cashable savings of around £600,000 (annually) from 2011-12.[32]

15   C&AG's Report Para 2.12, 3.4 Back

16   C&AG's Report Para 3.5-3.6 Back

17   C&AG's Report Para 1.8 Back

18   C&AG's Report Para 2.4 Back

19   Q 1 Back

20   Q 101; C&AG's Report Para 3.20 Back

21   Q 120; C&AG's Report Para 3.20 Back

22   C&AG's Report Para 3.21 Back

23   Q 98 Back

24   Q 4; C&AG's Report Para 3.22 Back

25   Q 17 Back

26   Q 1 Back

27   C&AG's Report para 20 Back

28   Q 147; C&AG's Report paras 3.12-3.15 Back

29   Q 44 Back

30   Q 86 Back

31   Ev 25 (Letter from Dame Helen Ghosh dated 20 March 2012) Back

32   Q 92; C&AG's Report para 3.22 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 30 May 2012