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Policing minister argues ‘digital’ is forces' biggest opportunity

David Bicknell Published 17 January 2018

Nick Hurd has challenged police forces to embrace digital and mobile technology


Policing and Fire Service minister Nick Hurd has challenged police forces to fully embrace digital and mobile technology to keep people safe both online and on the frontline.

Speaking to policing leaders at the Police ICT Company Summit in Hinckley, Leicestershire, Hurd described it as “absolutely essential that we do more” to make the most of 21st century technology to help save police time and solve crimes.

He added that a renewed focus will be placed on the role of digital policing through the £175m Police Transformation Fund.

Hurd said, “While policing’s greatest asset is its people, its biggest opportunity is technology.

“I see transforming our police forces, so that they are thoroughly equipped for the digital age, as critical to our shared mission – cutting crime and protecting the public. Progress is being made. However, it is absolutely essential that we do more.”

Hurd pointed out that officers in some forces are able to spend an extra hour a day on the frontline because of mobile working. If all forces deliver the same as the best, he said, it will free up the equivalent of 11,000 extra officers across England and Wales.

The Home Office has pointed to Greater Manchester Police’s rollout of mobile devices to 80 per cent of its staff, which will increase time spent on the frontline equivalent to 1,000 eight-hour shifts each year.

Hurd also discussed the areas where the Home Office is working with policing to lead a series of national technology programmes to revolutionise police access to vital evidence: 

“Whether it is an effective national system for reading number plates, mobile fingerprint searching or providing the emergency services with a ground-breaking 4G communications network, we are designing crucial systems to give police officers information at their fingertips faster than ever before,” he said.

Last year, £11m was awarded through the Police Transformation Fund for a Video Enabled Justice trial in the South East and London to help improve access to justice, significantly enhancing victim and witness user experience, and saving police time.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has also announced a comprehensive settlement for policing in the next financial year, which, the Home Office said, will increase funding by up to £450m across local, national and counter terrorism policing priorities.

Although Hurd referenced the importance to forces of the 4G Emergency Services Network (ESN) communications system, the Home Office is likely to come under pressure throughout 2018 to demonstrate significant progress on ESN’s rollout, which is behind schedule but is due to get underway in the North-West in the middle of this year.

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