Page last updated at 10:54 GMT, Monday, 26 May 2008 11:54 UK

Police given hand-held computers

Tony McNulty on the benefits of the system

Details of a 50m scheme to provide police forces with 10,000 hand-held computers have been unveiled.

Some 27 forces in England and Scotland will benefit from the devices, which Gordon Brown last year said would cut paperwork by 99 minutes per shift.

Police Minister Tony McNulty said the move would make crime fighting more effective and save officers time.

However, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said there were not enough devices to meet demand.

Mr McNulty said of the initiative: "It is just one of a range of improvements we are delivering to cut unnecessary bureaucracy, exploit new technologies and enable police officers to spend more time on frontline policing."

Ailsa Beaton from Acpo said demand from forces showed the "appetite within the police service for mobile communications in support of frontline officers".

"Demand has far outstripped supply and consequently some forces were disappointed," she said.

Mr McNulty said he understood Acpo's concern, but added: "It's a start and we need to learn and grow about how to use these devices as we roll [them] out."

Database access

Uses for the computers will include confirming identity, on-the-spot forms such as stop and search, and scanning fingerprints.

Richard Earland of the National Policing Improvement Agency told the BBC he expected the scheme to expand quickly.

He said: "We have heard from the minister that there will be a second wave of funding, and it's very likely that forces will provide some of their own resource, and I'd expect to see most operational staff having these devices at some point in the medium term.

"Officers who have access to databases such as the Police National Computer, command and control and intelligence systems while out on patrol will spend less time returning to the station and more time on the frontline."

A recent review of policing by Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Ronnie Flanagan highlighted the need to provide forces with such equipment.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced last September that the computers would be operational within a year.

The forces which made successful bids were:

  • Association of Police Forces in Scotland (Strathclyde, Tayside, Northern, Lothian and Borders, Grampian, Fife, Dumfries and Galloway, Central Scotland)
  • Bedfordshire
  • British Transport Police
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Cheshire
  • East Midlands collaboration (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire)
  • Essex
  • Hertfordshire
  • Kent
  • Lancashire
  • Metropolitan Police
  • Staffordshire
  • Thames Valley
  • Yorkshire collaboration (Humberside, North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire)

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