Scotland Yard – yes, Scotland Yard – has joined the post-PC revolution by announcing a tablet investment worth £200 million, or about $360 million, part of which is the trial purchase comprising 600 iPad minis.
Scotland Yard, which is a metonym for the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service, the territorial police force responsible for policing most of London, said the iPad minis will be used as a replacement for police notebooks.
As part of the trial program, officers in Hammersmith and Fulham will be using Apple’s tablet to record crimes and taking witness statements using custom-made apps by the Metropolitan Police…
According to the Financial Times, the Metropolitan Police will also use special apps to retrieve mission critical data like directions to the nearest police department, nearby gang members, the number of repeat victims in any given area and more.
There will even be an app to order new police uniforms!
Richard Thwaite, the Met’s chief information officer, said:
We want the officers out there fighting crime on the streets rather than sitting in a police station tapping on a keyboard, not solving anything. Even if they are in Starbucks keying in details, then at least they are out there, visible and accessible and reassuring to the public.
The plan calls for a cool 15,000 tablet devices being distributed to police officers. The initiative is expected to save Scotland Yard up to 30 percent versus the current system.
Ultimately, Scotland Yard wants to put an end to data being “siloed” in individual boroughs, and “open up a London-wide crime database which can be used to produce ‘predictive’ maps of offences before they happen”.
Not everything’s rosy, however.
Last year, the Met forces were given smartphones but constables were reportedly “unlikely to take their gloves off to use a phone at 3am in the rain,” the report noted.
Despite these high hopes, precedents are not auspicious. The National Audit Office found in 2012 that a Home Office scheme to equip officers with more than 40,000 mobile devices had produced savings of just £600,000 out of a projected £125m.
Bizarrely, the NAO was told by forces that some officers were spending more time in the office after being given the phones, rather than less.
Some drawbacks notwithstanding, this is actually great news.
The legendary ineffectiveness of the police forces stems in part from outdated technology and the officers’ inability to access information databases on the go.
For the most part, we’ve seen Apple’s device transform education, content creation, boardrooms, governments and a few other important industry verticals.
With that in mind, there really is no compelling reason why police forces shouldn’t use mobile devices to improve their effectiveness other than security-related concerns.
As Apple’s iOS software is universally deemed the most secure mobile operating system out there, strong security measures on the backend coupled with custom-made apps should assuage these security related issues.
In my view, the only major obstacle to such initiatives could be that police forces around the world are not very savvy when it comes to modern IT technologies.