Deploying Intune for Android devices in Cumbria Constabulary
Every region of the 43 in England and Wales has its own set of challenges when it comes to Policing. Cumbria’s challenge is one of size. With the 7th fewest officers in their ranks, but with the 7th largest geographic area of responsibility, efficiency of communication is key. We wanted to learn more about how Cumbria Constabulary have been removing barriers to communication and information with their new mobile devices, so we caught up with PCC Peter McCall and PC Mark Christie to find out more.
Increasing the visibility of officers in the community
PETER: It’s all about confidence for the public, and that confidence only comes by seeing the officers, and having positive interactions with the officers. I think we have to recognise that with the withdrawal of cops from the streets and the closure of some police stations due to inevitable financial constraints, there is a public perception, rightly or wrongly, that the Police have disappeared, and as a result that confidence has been dented. And that presents its own issues of course. If confidence is lost, people stop calling into the police with information and intelligence, and once that flow stops, the job of the Police becomes significantly more difficult. I’m sure most officers across the country would agree as well that it is far easier and more effective to serve a community that you know and have relationships with. This can only be done by allowing officers to be present within that community.
MARK: There’s no doubt, having remote and simple access to these core systems allows us to be more present, and subsequently means that when I’m sitting with a victim or a vulnerable person, I’m giving them a better service. Not only am I able to be more present with them, but any digital report I’m filling in will go on the systems straight away. This means that any automated referrals that happen in the background are available immediately, allowing us to give immediate and accurate safeguarding advice and contacts.
One of the real benefits we’re seeing around the NEP work we’ve been doing is around the virus. We’ve invested in different areas for COVID-19 contingency planning, one of which has been on additional mobile devices managed by Microsoft Intune. This gives us the capacity to pull other officers back into uniform if some were to fall ill, hand them a phone which is secure and connected to key Force systems, and get them out covering those patches.
Equally if we need to split the teams up into two or three to reduce our risk, we can now brief half the team from a community hub, smaller police stations or other remote location. These are options which we have to consider during this period of uncertainty, and we’re seeing the Intune devices really supporting this.
Supporting officers in carrying out their duties effectively
PETER: You need to look after your own, and give them the best possible chance at delivering their duties effectively. We’re a small rural Force with a lot of ground to cover, and whilst our lakes and mountains are beautiful, in terms of getting around and communicating, it can be a challenge. Having this mobile technology that the programme is deploying will help relieve a lot of the frustrations that our officers might otherwise feel. Of course, there will be initial glitches and developments required, but from a leadership perspective we want to be clear that we value what our officers and staff do, and we want to support them in being as safe and efficient as possible in carrying out their duties. There are so many tedious jobs which I know cause our officers frustration, and we want to push forward to a place where these frustrations are nullified by technology enabled processes.
MARK: If you give me any piece of equipment which makes my job less risky and easier to do, then you’re telling me that you understand the situation I am working in and that I'm valued. That naturally makes you feel better about being at work, and impacts how you are feeling at home too. We have a stressful job looking after our communities, and we are always finding ourselves in difficult or dangerous situations. Having devices with increased functionality hugely increases our confidence in carrying out these duties, and in my opinion often improves the likelihood of a successful outcome.
PETER: I’ve never met an officer who has joined the force because they like sitting behind a keyboard in the police station, and that is not where we want them to be. I look forward to the day where an officer might be able to take a statement on the street using a mobile device without ever having to type anything in, and that statement going straight into the Criminal Justice System. Now clearly we are not there yet, but we have started our journey.
Prioritising security and efficiency
PETER: I come from a military background where cyber warfare has been a very important area of development over the last 15 years, and there are a lot of parallels with Policing. For us in Policing, it all comes back to intelligence and information, both for catching criminals, but also for deploying our workforce and responding to incidents. If the systems which hold this information and intelligence go down, you can always revert to old fashioned methods, but they are hideously inefficient in comparison and not nearly as effective. It’s a constantly changing and developing world, and with things like the cyber security centre and our new secure mobile devices, we are looking to stay at the front of that. We’re seeing that exponentially, more and more crime is moving online, and it’s vital that we continue to protect ourselves in Policing and our communities at the same pace.
MARK: From a Policing systems point of view, having a new security baseline for these Android devices is preventing us from having to take old fashioned notes on a notepad, to then have to come back to the station and type it into a core system. It sounds quite elementary, but the amount of time we could save in a region like Cumbria by not having to return to the station and fill in these reports on desktops is really quite significant. It boils down to use having more time to be on our patch, working with our community.
Let’s think about the case of a high risk missing child. Immediately we are deployed to the address and within 20 minutes of getting there, our report can be uploaded onto the Police National Computer (PNC) and circulated across all patrols in the area, with critical information being shared instantly with the relevant safeguarding agencies. In the past, if I take a missing person’s report in my notebook, I might then get deployed to an emergency on my 45 minute journey back to the station, and before you know it, it could be a couple of hours before the report of a high risk missing child would be on any Policing systems. Of course, priorities would occur, but the investigation would be delayed until I returned. These new mobile devices allow this process to start immediately, making our response more timely and enhancing our service delivery.