Staffordshire Police is to issue 1,200 officers with state-of-the-art hand-held computers to reduce their red tape burden and increase their time on ‘visible duty’.
It is one of 27 forces set to benefit from a £50 million Government pledge to provide officers with 10,000 ‘palm-top’ devices - known as PDAs - in a move which will cut time spent on paperwork by at least 90 minutes each shift.
The ‘pocket PCs’ - funded by a £3.7 million subsidy - will allow officers to remotely access the Police National Computer for people and vehicle checks, CCTV images, missing people alerts and the force’s own control centre.
Each device is fitted with a camera, which can help save time in identifying people or vehicles. In a recent case a disqualified driver admitted flouting his ban when a police officer took his photo for follow-up inquiries.
Staffordshire’s Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Lee said: "We have been one of a handful of forces involved in piloting mobile data, more recently with 180 neighbourhood and incident management officers in Longton.
"We are delighted that the quality of our work in this exciting area, and the commitment of the force and police authority to maximise officers’ time on visible duty, have been recognised with such a significant financial award.
"This announcement means that we can now roll-out mobile data devices to 1,200 Staffordshire officers, and to 300 more working with the Central Motorway Police Group and the region’s counter-terrorism unit."
Prime Minister Gordon Brown claimed last year that the devices, linked to main systems and databases, could cut average paperwork by 99 minutes a shift.
But police chiefs said many forces had been disappointed after demand for the high-tech kit far outstripped the number being supplied by the Home Office.
"We are investing in new technology to make crime fighting more effective and to save officers’ time," said Police Minister Tony McNulty.
"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."
He added: "The more we can get our police out on the street and stay on the street rather than running back to the station all the time the better."
Ailsa Beaton, the Metropolitan Police’s director of information who leads on such issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers - which selected the successful force bids - said there had been nowhere near enough computers to meet demand from forces across the country.
"The response in terms of applications against this funding demonstrates the appetite within the police service for mobile communications in support of frontline officers," she said.
"Demand has far outstripped supply and consequently some forces were disappointed. A pragmatic approach had to be adopted in order to keep to budget and timescales for delivery.
"That said, we cannot lose sight of what has been achieved in relatively short timescales. We will continue to work together with the NPIA (National Policing Improvement Agency) to deliver mobility solutions for the future."
Richard Earland of the NPIA said: "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 - therefore increasing visibility and reassuring the public."
The other forces successful with bids for a share of the cash to fund the devices were: the East Midlands Collaboration (made up of Nottinghamshire Police, Leicestershire Constabulary, Lincolnshire Police, Derbyshire Police and Northamptonshire Police); Bedfordshire Police; Cambridgeshire Constabulary; Association of Police Forces in Scotland (all eight Scottish forces); British Transport Police; Cheshire Constabulary; Essex Police; Lancashire Constabulary; Hertfordshire Police; Thames Valley Police; Yorkshire collaboration (North Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Police, Humberside Police); Kent Police; and the Metropolitan Police Service.