The mobile tech bringing Manchester’s police closer to its community
Police in Greater Manchester, where mobile phone technology has been deployed to every officer. Credit: Peter Byrne/PA
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) is one of the UK’s largest police forces, with over 6,000 officers ensuring the safety and security of a local population of 2.5 million people spread over 11 divisions and 500 square miles.
In recent years, changes in policing style and strategy have focused on achieving closer engagement with communities to target the root cause of problems. It’s a proactive approach that stimulates long-term trust with the local population to reduce crime and reoffending. In Manchester, it would transform the archetypal ‘response’ cop into a more versatile and proactive problem solver, drawing on street-level knowledge and relationships with local citizens and community partners.
This strategic shift was set against a backdrop of pressure on GMP’s budget, a consequence of the UK government’s Comprehensive Spending Review. With a reduction in funding of £134m between 2011-2015, the force was also asked to find additional savings of £67m by 2020. It seemed like an almost impossible conundrum: to do more, engage more and serve better on a reduced flow of income.
Transforming ways of working
In 2010, challenged by a series of legacy technology systems developed in house, the Manchester force needed a step change to deliver fully on the new community-centred policing strategy. Many of its old paper-based processes took officers off the streets and put them behind desks; the very opposite of its ambition. To enable GMP to focus on the future, EY has helped the force to embrace mobile technology as never before, completing the deployment of mobile devices to every officer over a one-year period.
Creating the capability to power the force
As Strategic Delivery Partner to the IS Transformation Programme, EY is bringing GMP’s ambitious change agenda to life. The digital enablement of the entire force is liberating officers to take responsibility, make decisions and solve problems ‘on-the-go’. The centerpiece of the programme has already put 10,000 mobile devices, each with eight core policing apps, directly in officers’ hands. This critical new capability will give officers the tools and information they need at street level. The net effect will modernise GMP, by enabling officers to spend more time in the community and less back at base.
Building a hands-on, can-do team
EY designed a comprehensive new mobile capability to allow officers to engage more deeply and spend far greater quality time in the community. Quality engagement in turn enables an actionable understanding of root-cause problems, rather than of symptoms. This helps cut crime and reoffending rates and build collective efficacy in local communities.
Richard Williamson, Executive Director at EY, says “Mobilisation meant more than putting a device in every officer’s hand. It was an essential driver in reaching GMP’s new ‘Target Operating Model’. To embed the project and effect the shift in operating culture that the force wanted to see, we needed a jointly agreed, structured approach to planning, rollout and training”.
In order to fast track the project from business case to planning and rollout within just 12 months, EY’s solution took working hand-in-hand to a new level. With our broad knowledge of the challenges and drivers of contemporary policing, we made a concerted effort to secure sponsorship of the project at the highest level. This went all the way to the Chief Constable of GMP and the interim Mayor of Manchester.
The partnership approach involved a joint GMP/EY project team of around 30 people working together on site. EY helped shape everything from organising steering groups to creating internal comms and ensuring opportunities to use the new technology in real world policing. “Giving a smartphone to every officer is only going to work if they each have a chance to see the benefits – and that means learning in real life, as well as in formal courses”, notes Williamson.
Digital policing in action
GMP’s Mobile Deployment Project has gone far beyond making improvements in operational effectiveness. By dealing with the notorious burden of police paperwork, it is leading to a step-change in victim support and public safety.
Initial results are having an immediate and positive effect. 92% of transactions have been conducted outside of the station, in the community. As this is very often in the presence of victims or witnesses, the public can clearly see the impact of digital policing in action, and as officers stay out for longer periods, they are having a greater and more reassuring presence on the streets.
Already, there are requests for extra functionality and requests to showcase the technology to other forces across the UK. Williamson sees a clear opportunity for Manchester and beyond as the project evolves. “With each new tech release to come, we can expect outcomes to improve and GMP to see deeper engagement with local people,” he says.