Police force borrows £1.5m for a gadget

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The Independent Online

A police force was criticised today for borrowing £1.5 million to fund a new gadget giving officers access to their computers while on the move.

Hampshire Police Authority has approved the purchase of 159 mobile data terminals (MDTs) which will be fitted to the force's patrol vehicles.

The devices will allow officers to access applications that run on their desktop computers while away from the station.

But to finance the purchase and the training of 1,000 officers, the police authority will borrow approximately £1.5 million, to be paid back over a five-year period.

A Taxpayers' Alliance spokeswoman said: "Whilst we want to see police adapting to better working practices that will get them out of the office and back on the streets, it is worrying that the police are borrowing money for this scheme.

"Taxpayers will worry that they are still spending more than they can afford.

"What would really help to free up police time and save money is less bureaucracy and less paperwork."

A spokesman for Hampshire Police Authority said that they expected to see benefits worth up to £2.1 million per year gained by extra time spent by officers on patrol.

He added it would enable officers to reduce unnecessary journeys to police stations to complete administrative tasks.

It would also enable officers to gain information on the spot more efficiently and reduce the need for witnesses to attend police stations to give statements.

Councillor Adrian Collett, vice-chair of Hampshire Police Authority, said: "We are very pleased to enable officers to be more visible to our local communities by undertaking work out in the field that would previously have had to be carried out at a station."

Hampshire Constabulary has already announced that it plans to axe 1,400 posts in order to reduce its budget by £70 million to meet Government cuts of 25%.

It has also announced initiatives to share resources with Thames Valley Police and will scrap its spotter plane and instead will share two helicopters with Sussex and Surrey forces.

Hampshire Police Authority is independent of Hampshire Constabulary and is responsible for "securing an efficient and effective policing service for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight".

It sets the annual police budget and is responsible for ensuring the constabulary "achieves best value for the money".