Front-line Tasmania Police officers go completely mobile

Tasmania Police has invested AU$1 million to ensure that all of its front-line officers are equipped with an Acer tablet to improve how they spend their time in the field.

Front-line officers of Tasmania Police no longer have to be desk bound when it comes to completing administrative tasks — often after their shifts — or be taking handwritten notes, following the rollout of 1,120 Acer Iconia W511 tablets.

Tasmania Police was previously using a fleet of 1,100 desktop computers, including 600 Windows XPs that had reached their end of life and 500 Apple machines running Windows 7, as well as 200 in-car mobile data terminals.

Now, all the 600 desktop computers running XP have been retired, and all front-line police officers each have an Acer tablet.

All non-front-line officers will continue to predominantly use an Apple computer with Windows 7. This includes those in service support roles, the radio dispatch unit, intelligence officers who require desktop process power, and the forensic lab.

Jason Hutcheon, acting inspector of the business improvement unit at the Tasmanian Department of Police and Emergency Management, said the thinking behind the replacement project was to find a single device that would be suitable for all officers in all situations.

"We wanted to roll out some sort of tablet because we wanted some mobile data capability so the guys could firstly get all the information they need from the front end, but also be able to do all the data entry and administrative tasks in the field as well," he said.

"Windows 8 basically lets us run our entire existing desktop infrastructure, including one or two legacy systems that we still run, and Windows 8 allows us to use those. We're still heavily dependent on Office for a number of things, so running the full version of Office was a good thing."

Hutcheon noted that while Tasmania Police trialled iPads and a number of Android devices, the Acer tablets with Windows 8 were the best fit.

In fact, during a six-week pilot during May 2013, 37 Acer tablets at the Tasmania Police training academy managed to save the organisation 280 hours in administration work.

"That efficiency equates to 37 working days plus 43 hours in overtime. In dollar terms, we saved AU$2,600 from the pilot alone," Hutcheon said, noting that Tasmania is the only jurisdiction to roll out mobility devices to every officer.

The phased rollout, which took six months and was completed in May 2014, saw the tablets first issued to new recruits of the training academy. It enabled them to go completely paperless, and eliminated the need to shred, print, and photocopy documents.

However, when the tablets were rolled out to the rest of the front line, Hutcheon said there was some resistance.

"During the first phase, we rolled out it out so that everyone got a tablet. The second phase, we withdrew the desktop machines that were existing, but some people liked having both a desktop machine plus a tablet, whereas to afford the rollout of tablets to every single person, we had to drastically cut back our desktop fleet to pay for it," he said.

As a result of the internally funded rollout that had cost the organisation approximately AU$1 million, officers are now able to securely access all police systems, including the ability to pull up driving licence details.

"I know there are some jurisdictions that might have issues with every police officer having access to the system 24/7. But for us, that has been the big efficiency gain of having access to information right when you need it, and not have to come back to the police station," Hutcheon said.

At the same time, the tablet's touchscreen is helping capture electronic signatures so that witnesses and victims no longer have to go to a police station to sign typed-up statements.

Meanwhile, for the purpose-built police infringement notice system, the touchscreen means that officers can complete an infringement notice on the spot, file it online to the back-end system, and trigger the mailing of the notice to the offender. This integrated process is another Australian first for Tasmania Police, Hutcheon said.

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