Officers need smartphones when they are on duty, says chief inspector of constabulary Tom Winsor

Personal smartphones were often exponentially more powerful than the equipment they were given, says Tom Winsor

Frontline police officers are hamstrung by an antiquated and fragmented system of technology that fails to provide them with basic information when they turn up on suspects' doorsteps, the new chief inspector of constabulary said today.

Officers' personal smartphones were often exponentially more powerful than the equipment they were given by their own forces to do their jobs, said Tom Winsor in his first public statements since the controversial choice for the job started work seven months ago.

Mr Winsor, the former rail regulator, also warned that too many communities were not helping the police to carry out their jobs, and called on parents and schools to help instil a greater sense of right and wrong. He also called for greater responsibility to be placed on health services for treating and diagnosing the mentally-ill to help prevent them from going on to commit serious violent crime.

But some of his strongest criticisms were saved for the "rudimentary and primitive" technologies that failed to link police work with other parts of the criminal justice system. "The screaming frustration of front line police officers with antiquated and outdated systems is a matter of considerable national importance," he told reporters.

He said that there were more than 2,000 different information technology systems in use in the 43 police forces. Mr Winsor said he met one officer with a PDA (personal digital assistant) half the size of a shoebox that proved to be "next to useless".

"When police officers get to the police station and put on their uniforms, they lock in their locker a smartphone which has exponentially greater capacity then the system they put on their shoulders.

"Some officers will use [their own] smartphones for voice recording and photographs and getting information. It is highly desirable for the officer of the future … to have a hand-held device on patrol and will be able to walk up the street and know that at number 22 there's a registered sex offender."

He contrasted police systems with technology that made it easier to commit crime from petty offences to terrorism. He said that improvements in the police national database - which started two years ago in an attempt to link police intelligence and holds 1.8 billion pieces of data - needed to continue.

Mr Winsor, the first chief inspector of constabulary for England and Wales without a policing background, said that police needed to focus their operations on crime hotspots. He said that prevention was the primary purpose of policing rather than catching criminals.

"The police always have to do more with fewer resources in the current circumstances of austerity," he said. "Therefore the biggest bang for the public's buck is on crime prevention."

Mr Winsor was a controversial choice as chief inspector after he called for radical changes in conditions, including a cut in pay for new constables and direct entry at higher ranks. The changes in a government-ordered report sparked protests from rank-and-file police leaders.

But after a conciliatory speech in which he described the model of British policing as the best in the world, Mr Winsor also called for more help from the public for them to do their job. "In too many communities the public will not assist the police and it's highly desirable that they do because the police are not a force apart," he said.

Tom Winsor - seen as a provocative appointment

Tom Winsor's first major public speech was greeted with respectful applause from his audience of senior police officers and academics. Next month - when he addresses the rank-and-file police officers - he may receive a distinctly frostier reception.

Home Secretary Theresa May was heckled at the Police Federation annual conference last year in the wake of Mr Winsor's series of comprehensive reports that called for cuts to new entrants' pay, fitness tests and the right of chief constables to lay off officers for the first time.

Mr Winsor, 55, a lawyer with no policing background, has come to be viewed as the face of unpopular reform, a role he had performed previously in his role as rail regulator. The former Labour Party member clashed with former Transport Secretary Stephen Byers in 2001 over the future of Railtrack as it went into administration.

His appointment to the job of chief inspector was viewed as a provocative move and a signal of intent by a government set on reforms to the service in the face of police protests and during a period of budget cuts.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most