West Yorkshire Police delivers its digital transformation

With more than 5,000 front-line police officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) serving more than two million people, West Yorkshire Police is one of the largest forces in the country.

As part of its commitment to delivering ongoing enhancements to service, the force is looking to increase its visibility and presence in the community through improving efficiency and productivity.

The ultimate goal is to help communities feel safer – all the while responding to the budgetary challenges familiar across all forces.

To achieve this, West Yorkshire Police has embarked on the most significant change in its history – the Digital Mobile Policing programme.

At the core of the change programme is a radical overhaul of the force’s IT infrastructure, to take full advantage of innovations in public safety technology in the office and on the beat.

This includes:

  • Making data mobile, so officers can spend more time on the beat
  • Introducing wi-fi across sites to promote agile working and hot-desking
  • Rolling out body-worn cameras for automatic recording of incidents across the force

The impact of these changes cannot be underestimated. “We’re effectively moving from a traditional and analogue environment to an increasingly digital one,” said Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle of West Yorkshire Police. “If you consider the transition utilities have made from being Victorian organisations to 21st century entities, this is the same scale of transformation policing is undergoing today.”

Key to the success of this transformation is putting mobile policing solutions in the hands of the officers, linking them to HQ so they can upload and download data quickly and efficiently on the beat or at an incident. This is achieved through capturing routine processes in core policing apps, including Crime, Missing Persons, Intel and Electronic Witness Statement.

“Airwave was the chosen applications supplier with Pronto because of its approach to understanding and transforming front-line policing apps and processes delivered on devices,” said Rajiv Kumar, IT Project Manager at West Yorkshire Police. “A further consideration was the fact that Pronto has the ability to integrate into various back-office platforms.”

This means that data only needs to be entered once to be available to view, reuse and retrieve by any authorised individual across different apps – driving efficiency across the force and enabling intelligence to be shared in real-time. 

The ability to link with HQ also significantly reduces time, particularly when it comes to conducting real-time search. Rather than relying on their radio and the District Control Room staff to perform searches, officers can use Pronto to conduct real-time searches in the field from their devices, safely handling and transferring data with firewalls and encryption.

The Digital Mobile Policing programme is being implemented against the backdrop of considerable budget challenges, but the increased use of data has already delivered a reduction in the  amount of voice calls.
Paul Whiteley, Director of West Yorkshire Police’s Information Services, said: “The business case for digital mobile policing is based on harnessing the transformational benefits it brings to meet our strategic objective of providing better policing to the public for the same or less budget. In other words, to do more with the resources we’ve freed up by being more efficient and more productive.”

To achieve the best result, West Yorkshire Police worked closely with the Airwave team to roll out a suite of applications that take advantage of the new technologies on offer, rather than just putting old paper-based processes onto new devices.

 “The approach taken by Airwave is very different from other vendors,” Rajiv Kumar says. “They look at the process, the information gathered, and where it goes to build a streamlined process out in the field that doesn’t simply replicate traditional paper forms on a digital device. It flows in a way that suits the process you are handling, so that information captured once can be shared with other processes as required.”

Airwave was the chosen applications supplier with Pronto because of its approach to understanding and transforming front-line policing apps and processes delivered on devices.

Harnessing the potential of the technology available now and in the future will enable forces to deploy their officers where the communities most want them – in the field. The Digital Mobile Policing programme will continue to evolve to take full advantage of technologies as they enter the market.

And Information Services Director Whiteley sees far more potential to expand the force’s use of Pronto across more processes. “People tend to assume we have delivered the digital mobile policing solution, but we’ve only just scratched the surface,” he says.

“We’ve a large list of potential apps and in the future, we see processes going deeper and wider, leading to richer digital capabilities and user experience on the device. We will see the ability for mapping, real-time intelligence, and optimal and predictive deployment being enabled right from the device. However, it’s very much about prioritisation and achieving the foundation milestones first.”

With 45 operational business processes now digitalised and available via the Airwave police app store, West Yorkshire Police and other forces will be able to broaden the use of Pronto to bring greater efficiency and accuracy to what were once repetitive processes requiring multiple entries of data.