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'We are committed to improving the health and wellbeing of our workforce'

Roll-out of technology to assist 'remote working', says Met
Published - 01/02/2019 By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle

Britain’s largest police force today promised to listen to concerns that “matter to the public” in an ongoing commitment to use mobile technology to free up officers’ time to tackle crime.

Uniform and plain clothes officers in the Met Police are being actively encouraged to adopt the ‘appliance of science’ to work remotely and in public areas where they can be “seen and approached”.

This new flexible mentality – sweeping aside a slavish addiction to working from a static base – will not only help Londoners and victims of crime but improve the workforce’s health and wellbeing, Scotland Yard believes.

By the end of next month, the Met will have rolled out 6,000 Identity Not Known biometrics’ devices to its officers – a policing ‘first’ that scans fingerprints and recognises suspects within a minute, saving countless trips back to police stations to identify people.

The INK project – keeping officers out on the streets for longer and freeing up limited custody space – comes on top of the force issuing 13,100 laptops, 16,700 tablets and more than 22,000 body worn video cameras, all smarter working designed to improve service delivery to the public.

Frontline Policing Commander David Musker said: “We have listened to the concerns of the public and one of the ways we are responding is by giving mobile kit to frontline officers and telling them that we want them, expect them, and will support them, in working remotely and away from stations if it is appropriate.”

Officers have also been encouraged to tweet from their local accounts to say where they are working and to encourage the public to come and engage with them.

Enabling officers to work from public spaces such as coffee shops, parks and from their cars, will also act as a deterrent to potential criminals and help reduce violent crime, a top priority for the force.

He added: “We all want officers to be visible and tackle crime, however we (the police) and the public need to work together to make this initiative a success.”

The brave new world of technology is helping with officers’ work/life balance, according to Chief Inspector John Fish, a business change manager with the Met.

For example, in some cases, officers have, and will able to, take a tablet home so that they are home in time to put their children to bed at the end of their shift and then be able to flexibly work from a variety of locations.

CI Fish added: “The purpose of this new flexible working mentality that the Met is bringing in is not only to help Londoners and victims of crime, but also to help officers.

“Police work is unique. It is highly rewarding and offers diverse opportunities, however, it is also one of the most physically and psychologically challenging sectors to work in.

“We are committed to improving the health and wellbeing of our workforce and believe that by promoting this freedom to work more remotely, officers will achieve a much better work/life balance.”

Meanwhile, eight people were arrested on Thursday during the force’s deployment of live facial recognition technology in Romford town centre.

Three of the detainees were as a direct result of the technology identifying individuals wanted by the Met for violence offences, a specific focus of the operation. The other five were proactive as part of the wider operation.

Today was supposed to mark the 10th, and final, deployment of the force’s ongoing trial. But due to adverse weather forecasts it has been moved to another date.

Commander Ivan Balhatchet, strategic lead for live facial recognition, said: “We must ensure each trial deployment of this technology is as effective as possible.

“We aim to carry out each trial in areas where footfall is expected to be high to ensure all aspects of the technology are being tested thoroughly. Given the weather forecast, we expect footfall to be low and decided to reschedule.

“As with all previous deployments the technology was used overtly. We continue to engage with many different stakeholders, some who actively challenge our use of this technology. In order to show transparency and continue constructive debate, we invited individuals and groups with varying views on our use of facial recognition technology to this operational activity."

Forces have come under critical attack for their attempts to give live facial recognition technology credence.

Britain's Information Commissioner has launched an investigation following "significant concerns" over its legality and effectiveness while in November a study concluded "considerable investment" was needed to deliver consistent results after South Wales Police reported crashing computer systems and poor quality images during its trials.

South Wales Police, one of four UK forces trialling the technology, says its study by researchers at the Crime and Security Research Institute at Cardiff University found that large crowds, low light and people wearing glasses and hats hindered the technology's effectiveness.

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