Don’t call it the iPlod: new bit of kit set to transform police work

The computer says ‘allo, ‘allo, ‘allo – because police reckon their latest bit of kit is a real game-changer in the way bobbies on the beat work.

At a time when slashed budgets and cutbacks are dominating the headlines, this new near-indestructible tablet computer, already dubbed by some the iPlod, is a world away from the traditional copper’s notebook.

Sam Burrows from Panasonic, Dick Ellam from Vauxhall, chief constable Andy Bliss, crime commissioner David Lloyd, assistant chief constable Michael Ball, Mike Cunningham from KME and chief inspector Damien Kennedy.

Sam Burrows from Panasonic, Dick Ellam from Vauxhall, chief constable Andy Bliss, crime commissioner David Lloyd, assistant chief constable Michael Ball, Mike Cunningham from KME and chief inspector Damien Kennedy.

The new Toughpad may look like a conventional tablet computer at first sight, but it is waterproof and, as the name may suggest, galvanised with tough materials so that it can laugh off the rigours of front-line policing.

“We have been known to throw it about,” admitted one officer at the launch of the new range of mobile data equipment, which has even turned the heads of Prime Minister David Cameron and home secretary Theresa May.

The politicians visited the Herts force’s headquarters to congratulate chiefs on falling crime rates, as well as the groundbreaking new technology which should slash the time police officers spend on paperwork in their office, instead of out on the streets.

Ch Insp Damian Kennedy from the mobile data team trialling the equipment said: “This is something we are very proud of, it’s great for front line policing.

The Toughpad connects with mobile data equipment in the new fleet of police cars being trialled in Herts.

The Toughpad connects with mobile data equipment in the new fleet of police cars being trialled in Herts.

“This equipment will mean capturing data first time, every time, with no need to re-key any data. It’s the first of its kind in the country.”

The Toughpad can be used to execute warrants and instantly circulate pictures of wanted or missing people.

There is a stylus for taking signatures as well cameras front and rear, so that senior officers who aren’t on the spot can check in and offer immediate advice.

The device even has the potential to provide forms in different languages.

PC Paul Jennings with the new police Toughpad.

PC Paul Jennings with the new police Toughpad.

Statements can be taken and evidence gathered on the spot – without the need for tedious data re-entry which has proved such a burden in the past.

Chief constable Andy Bliss said: “As a constabulary we are always looking for the competitive advantage in fighting crime.

“Yes, we have got falling budgets but this is part of the good news story.

“I have had a real clamour from our officers for this technology, to improve front line policing. We are not in the dark ages now – in our private lives all of us are using all sorts of amazing technology and people have asked: Why we can’t have that at work?”

The Toughpad is unique in that it has been specially developed for the county, and is compatible with a brand new fleet of 86 Vauxhall Astra police cars now on trial around Herts.

Officers are able to ‘dock in’ the Toughpad in a bespoke glovebox compartment and access its features through a touchscreen built in to the dashboard.

This means officers can get to locations quicker using sat nav on the device, and even plan their entry and exit points to a house using a maps function.

While each Toughpad costs £1,600, to fully equip each car costs £5,000.

Insp Bob McGowan said: “This has the potential to be rolled out all over the country.

“We think it has all been worthwhile as this is going to be fit for purpose for years to come.

“Other police forces are so many steps behind us and they are all excited about what they have seen. We have got forces queuing up to take on what we have developed and built.”

New apps are constantly being developed to help make police on the beat more mobile and efficient.

Works in progress include automatic number plate recognition on the device, a stop and search app and a search app which can bring up details of anyone with a criminal record.

It can also be used to plot details of road traffic collisions, which currently have to be drawn by hand by police officers – twice.

PC Paul Jennings, using the equipment as part of the trial, said he couldn’t believe the difference it makes to his job. He said: “I can’t stress enough how good this is. It’s just a miracle.”

The mobile data project is the first part of a £3million investment in technology to support operational policing.