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Now is the time to go mobile

James Slessor, managing director of Accenture Police Services, urges police forces to be brave in order to explore and exploit new technologies to drive citizen engagement.

Overview

The use of mobile technology is growing, and fast. We live in a world where more people have access to a mobile phone than running water, 35 percent of people use a smartphone app before getting out of bed, and UK Twitter users outnumber newspaper readers by one million, but what does this mean for policing?

Background

Mobile technology isn’t new. Policing has been using mobile technology for years; more visible examples include the police radio, devices for issuing traffic tickets, fingerprint identification devices, automated number plate recognition technology and terminals to query national databases. So, a level of effort and interest from policing is evident, and benefits have already been seen.

Most police officers use smartphones in their personal lives and have come to expect the same level of mobility and access to information when at work. Indeed it is hardly surprising that officers are now regularly using their own smart phones to help them do their job.

Analysis

Accenture spoke with a range of officers across a number of countries to understand how mobile technology can transform:

  • There’s no shortage of ambition: Mobile technology projects, initiatives and strategies exist within police forces and there is a strong desire to improve effectiveness through use of mobile technology; the challenge exists in "how" to do it.

  • Officers and innovative suppliers are key to the change: Key to success is effective combination of the technological expertise and innovation from suppliers with practical experience and insight from officers.

  • It’s not just about technology: Policing needs to push boundaries with pioneering ideas, whilst retaining a practical focus; providing the capabilities officers need through devices that are intuitive and easy to use.

  • It’s time to be brave: Despite facing security, budget and technical constraints as well as procurement and other commercial restrictions, forces must recognise that now is the time to be brave, and that the benefits in officer satisfaction and productivity outweigh these short term challenges.

Recommendations

In a recent Accenture survey, 79 percent of UK respondents said they wanted to see police use more digital channels to communicate but only 19 percent said their local police force were using digital platforms to engage. In the current financial climate and given the advances in available technology, the time is right to further explore and exploit mobility and seize upon the appetite of citizens for new ways of engaging with police.