Police chiefs are to spend £2.1 million installing iPads in vehicles – in a bid to keep South Yorkshire bobbies on the beat for longer.
The aim is to keep frontline officers in communities rather than back at police stations, with the tablets offering them instant access to force databases.
They will be used to photograph crime scenes, while officers will be able to input witness statements as they are being taken - rather than writing them in longhand and typing them up back at base.
South Yorkshire Police has invested £900,000 in the scheme, with £1 million from the Government’s Police Innovation Fund, set up to improve policing through innovation and collaboration.
Shaun Wright, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, said: “The new technology will mean an end to officers having to write out statements and then input them into a computer back at their station – they will be able to input statements as they are being taken, allowing them more time to be out in the communities they serve.
“The 400 iPads will be installed as a trial and if successful in terms of improving productivity the scheme could be rolled out further.
“The aim is to have police officers out of stations for longer.”
Damian Green, police minister, said: “I am encouraged that every single police force has shown the same attitude in taking this opportunity to develop new ideas and ways of working.
“We have some exciting projects in this year’s round and I am looking forward to seeing the results.
“By encouraging forces to work together and embrace new technology, we can continue to improve policing and increase efficiency in years to come.”
The move was also welcomed by Neil Bownes, joint branch board chairman of the South Yorkshire Police Federation.
He said: “Considering that Blackberry phones are not fit for purpose policing out on the street, a tablet will be useful for officers to do all the necessary work that they need to without having to return to the station.
“We have got to catch up with the 21st century, some of the equipment is so antiquated, to make things easier and faster.”
In the last two years, South Yorkshire Police has lost 162 officers and 421 civilian staff in a cost-cutting drive.
Police budgets across the country have been slashed by 20 per cent, which Mr Wright called ‘very painful’.
He said every department would feel the effects of the cuts. He said there would be ‘more collaboration with neighbouring forces’ but ruled out the possibility of a fully-blown merger.
Mr Wright said: “The Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Local Government have said where police commissioners and forces want to collaborate they will support that voluntary merger. “At this moment in time the Government is not saying it will compel forces to merge.
“I am a strong believer policing should be as local as possible, to be as close to the people as can possibly be.”
He said South Yorkshire currently collaborated with other forces on intelligence, covert and hi-tech work, economic crime, scientific support, human resources, IT and legal services.
Plans are also afoot for more collaboration with neighbouring forces on armed response and public order work.
Mr Wright said, despite budget cuts and a reducing workforce, Sheffield remained ‘one of the safest cities in the UK’, with crime falling 7 per cent in South Yorkshire last year.
He said Sheffield had a crime rate of 69 offences per 1,000 residents, compared to Nottingham which has 100, 102 in Lincoln, 103 in Oxford and 76 per 1,000 residents in both Newcastle and Derby.
Mr Wright said the less crime there is, the more difficult it is to keep it down, but ‘I am optimistic that further reductions can be made’.