POLICE officers could spend up to an extra hour out in the community on each shift when they are issued with new handheld computers in North Yorkshire.
Chief Constable Dave Jones said yesterday that this was the positive impact when the technology - allowing officers to complete paperwork without having to return to their police station - was introduced at his former force in Northern Ireland.
Although he could not commit to such a time-saving in North Yorkshire, he said he was passionate about keeping officers visible in its communities, saying: “I believe this is crucial to successful policing and I know this is what the public want to see too.
“The investment in technology is designed to support this. We will be able to pinpoint where our resources are needed to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, which will ensure North Yorkshire Police is even more productive and continues to offer value for money.”
He also spoke about the potential technological help which the mobile devices could offer officers in future, when it might be possible to use them, for example, to carry out fingerprint tests and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) checks.
The new mobile devices are part of a £10 million shake-up of the force, dubbed Operational Policing Model (OPM), which was announced yesterday by the Chief Constable and the Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan.
Other measures include new ANPR equipment to cut down on cross-border and vehicle crime, the closure of the Selby custody suite and new “Investigation Hubs” to be set up in York, Scarborough, Harrogate and Northallerton.
A review of senior police ranks such as Chief Inspectors and Superintendents is also expected to save £1 million, with the money used to fund an additional 20 constables who will directly support community policing.
Mrs Mulligan said that the plans showed that despite years of austerity, the force was still investing in community policing, and working with victims of crime.
She said: “Making it easier for officers to do their jobs on the move, without having to come back to the station to fill in and submit paperwork, will mean more time spent on the beat serving the public and arresting criminals.
“The OPM has also analysed how policing is changing, setting up the force for the future so that it is better placed to tackle crime over the coming years. For example, for the first time, North Yorkshire Police will have a dedicated Cyber Crime Unit. We now need to discuss these proposals with local communities, and ensure they understand what’s needed of a modern and effective police service.”
The OPM has been developed over the past eight months by Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy, and if agreed by the public will be implemented between now and 2016.
Mr Jones said the money had been partly taken from the reserves and by making use of budget underspending.