Delivering the digital policing transformation

A shift to completely digital, paperless operations transforms policing and delivers cashable savings

The needs of public safety organisations are evolving. Police, fire and ambulance services, as well as other public service agencies need to be more efficient and effective than ever before if they are to be successful in an environment of on-going austerity and fast-paced technological evolution.

Work is already underway to address these challenges through the police-led Digital First programme, which aims to enable police officers to record evidence digitally whilst on the beat and upload evidence to their local and national systems. By digitally capturing and storing evidence at the point of reporting, officers can start to start build a case file, which can later be drawn from by the Criminal Justice System (CJS). The overall aim is for the complete end-to-end Criminal Justice System to be digital and of course much of this starts on the front line with our police officers.

Digitisation challenge

The British government estimates that the digitisation work done to date, if fully implemented, could see up to 4.5 million man-hours saved across all forces every year – the equivalent of over 2,100 officers back on the beat. It is therefore vital that new police systems, such as body-worn video cameras, tablets and touch screens used on patrol, produce evidence that is made immediately available to the CJS.

However, local and national police systems were initially designed to meet specific business needs and, aside from notable exceptions such as the Police National Computer (PNC), are rarely integrated. A variety of technologies have been employed to try and resolve some of the operational challenges by allowing information to be passed electronically to and from the front-line.

With Pronto, information captured digitally can be shared in real time to provide a common operational picture across all agencies

To be effective, these technologies require wireless connectivity, which can be limiting due to patchy mobile coverage and limited bandwidth. Moreover, many of the mobile applications developed for PDAs and other mobile devices used by police officers are only addressing a specific process. In practice a single incident can trigger several processes meaning that multiple data needs to be captured and shared between a number of agencies.

Airwave’s Pronto

Pronto, delivered by Airwave’s wholly owned subsidiary Kelvin Connect, is a digital document and information management tool. It has been designed to significantly reduce the amount of time police officers spend in the back office, and instead allows them to spend more time in their communities. It provides officers with the tools they need to complete a range of activities in the field, rather than having to request information through a third person, or travel back to the station – the so-called ‘yo-yo policing’ effect.

Combining seamless access to national and local databases Pronto gives officers the ability to conduct PROFILE online searches in real time anywhere there is wireless connectivity, and complete all processes digitally in an asynchronous (offline) fashion when there is patchy or no wireless network coverage – mitigating the impact of poor coverage areas.

Nominal information, validated from national systems such as PNC, on a vehicle, person, object or location can be shared multiple times into as many processes as required, based on what the incident is, and submitted into appropriate back-office systems. This alleviates the need for officers to rekey data or return to the station.

Pronto technology ensures resources can be focused where they are needed most – on the front line. 

Pronto is device agnostic and works on a number of platforms. This alone gives forces the flexibility to use existing technology without the need to purchase new devices. It includes a range of tools that can be tailored to the needs of the force, with an electronic notebook (eNotebook) comprised of a set of smart forms covering all areas of operational police business processes. The application suite includes an Electronic Witness Statement (EWS) application developed in partnership with the Home Office, it enables officers to capture information and images in electronic format. EWS files can be sent wirelessly to a police station or partner agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and are admissible in a court of law.

Common operational picture

The processes dealt with by the police rarely end at the police station back office. There is almost always an onward step – be it a sudden death report that has to be completed and submitted to the coroner’s office or information concerning a vulnerable child or adult that needs to be shared with social services or the local authority. Typically, the process of getting that information to the necessary agency entails the manual entry of information into a paper form that takes several days to arrive at the intended destination.

With Pronto, information captured digitally can be shared in real time to provide a common operational picture across all agencies, subject to agreed information sharing protocols. This means that all agencies can have relevant information to support accurate and timely decision making.

Operational benefits, cashable savings

It is expected that Great Britain’s police forces will have had their budgets cut overall by 50 per cent by the next government. As a consequence, forces are spending money to boost their efficiencies, maintain a high level of visibility within their communities, as well as deliver against the Digital First agenda. A quarter of all police forces in Great Britain now use Pronto to support them in these objectives.
And the gains are significant. For example, the time savings in the back office are as much as 8 to 10 minutes per item, with an additional saving of between 25 and 30 minutes when a crime is recorded digitally.

In addition, there is a reduction in the number of requests handled by the control room as officers no longer need to call in for details as the information is available on the device. This means that critical activity can be prioritised and responded to more efficiently, and officers save on average two hours per shift which was previously spent on station-based administration. Surrey Police is the first force in England within the national Electronic Witness and Digital Signature Pilot Project to present notes and a diagram drawn on an eNotebook’s screen as evidence in court. With witness’ signatures digitally captured, the vast sums of money invested in re-visiting victims and witnesses to take statements can be reduced dramatically.

From a storage perspective, current mandates mean the seven-year retention of forms and notebooks in a warehouse, as well as additional costs in terms of securely printing forms and disposing of older ones. Conversely, Pronto provides the option for digital documents to be stored in a secure server room.
With the entire end-to-end process digitised, Pronto eliminates activities that are not value-added, avoids instances where data is replicated or re-keyed into multiple business processes, and prevents officers from having to return to the office to complete paper forms. As the digitalisation of policing and the CJS transformation continues, Pronto technology ensures resources can be focused where they are needed most – on the front line.