Manchester police make mobility push

Contract with HCL lays ground for increased use of smartphones and tablets – while digital team releases new public-facing app

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) is planning to step up its use of mobile technology, following the signing of a contract with Indian IT services company HCL.

Police_ManchesterThe £2.5 million, two-year deal is part of a wider £10.7 million Mobile Programme aimed at reducing the force's dependency on paper processes and giving police officers access to its IT systems while on the beat.

The underlying intent reflects a now common desire of police forces to save officers from having to go back to a police station to pull up and update information from a range of systems. But it is coming now as GMP has been satisfied that the technology has become sufficiently mature to handle the demands.

Under the new deal, HCL is to support the implementation and managed service phase of the Mobile Programme. The procurement was made through the Digital Marketplace and is based on a successful proof of concept trial that GMP ran in the Rochdale area.

Savings projection

A briefing paper on the Mobile Programme, prepared by Manchester's police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd, says it is projected to increase police officers' productivity by 8.4% and deliver savings of £1.7 million per year, although this will be stacked against additional revenue costs of £1.9 million.

A mobile element was not included in the original contract with EY as it was thought it was not technically feasible to connect devices to GMP's legacy systems. However, the market for policing applications has since matured to the extent that enabled the force to run the trial in Rochdale.

This involved giving 37 officers smartphones loaded with seven policing applications and integrated into the legacy systems. The technology reportedly worked well and the feedback from officers was positive, leading to the development of a full business case.

The Mobile Programme includes developing a platform, including email and calendar access, and a series of policing applications. These include the creation, updating and search of incidents and crimes; a federated data search of police systems; create and search on electronic witness statements; satnav; and an electronic pocket notebook.

GMP is taking on a significant chunk of the implementation itself in an effort to get value for money, while the strategic partner role is being confined to supporting the behaviour and cultural change in the mobile deployment.

The move follows the launch two years ago of a £30 million Information Systems Transformation Programme (ISTP), with professional services firm EY as strategic delivery partner, to modernise GMP's key operational systems.

It involves replacing the force's crime and intelligence and command and control systems, along with the relocation of its data centres and restructuring of its information systems branch.

App launch

In a move independent of the programme, GMP has also released a new public-facing Android app. Among its features are push notifications on major incidents and urgent appeals, information on wanted and missing people based on geolocation data, and a section for users to report non-urgent intelligence.

Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: “It will allow us to engage with more people and keep the public updated with major incidents as well as reducing the amount of time it takes for urgent appeals to be seen which can make all the difference.

“The app will allow people to find out what is happening where they are and enable them to pass vital information to the police anonymously.”

GMP said further updates are planned for the app.

Image by Terry from UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons