Editorial: Online policing brings results

By Kelly Makiha

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Police officers are at long last joining the 21st century.

Next year, 6500 frontline officers nationwide are to get smartphones and a further 3900 staff will be given tablet devices to allow them to work better.

It's going to cost taxpayers $4.3 million followed by operating costs of $159 million in the next 12 years.

Old-schoolers will scoff and wonder what they need these "toys" for, but those in the technology know will wonder how on earth they have managed to get by until now without them.

Rotorua police area commander Inspector Bruce Horne has described it as a big step and one of the most significant things to happen in his policing career.

He's envisaging officers will be able to get through more work in far less time.

A trial of 100 officers in four police districts proved this, showing each officer spent on average an extra 30 minutes on a shift policing the front line.

I was blown away at the start of last year after chatting with a local officer to learn they "don't really have Facebook" at the police station.

While I'm sure this wasn't entirely true - for some time, officers have been monitoring social network sites for investigations - sites such as Facebook and YouTube are gold for police and should be used frequently. In the past few months, Rotorua police have stepped up their use of Facebook, introducing a Rotorua Police Facebook page which posts photos of wanted people and security camera footage.

Frequently after a post is put up, there is the odd rude comment criticising them for being on Facebook and calling people who offer information "narks" but there are far more positive remarks congratulating police on using technology to help catch crooks and expose criminals.

The new tablets and smartphones will be used for far more than just flicking through social networking sites. The officers will be able to access and share information without having to go back to the police station.

All of a sudden police will finally have the tools they deserve to do their job.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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