£1.6m bill for providing new tablet computers to hundreds of South Yorkshire Police officers

Chief Superintendent Jason Harwin with one of the devices
Chief Superintendent Jason Harwin with one of the devices

Providing hundreds of tablet computers to police officers has cost £1.6m of public money - equivalent to almost £2,500 per device.

The shared scheme between South Yorkshire and Humberside Police has seen 660 tablets provided to the two forces, with both getting 330 each.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings at home in Sheffield

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings at home in Sheffield

A Freedom of Information request published on the What Do They Know? website has revealed £1m towards the project costs came from the Home Office, with £300,000 each from the two areas’ police and crime commissioners.

South Yorkshire Police say the money has paid not only for the toughened laptops, but also security software, hardware, training and vehicle fitting.

But the average cost of providing each device, along with the extra support, comes to £2,424 for each tablet.

The Panasonic CF-AX3 devices are designed to allow officers to spend less time at their desks by allowing them to do admin work and update case files while out on the streets.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings said spending the money on the devices is justified.

“The use of mobile technology in police vehicles ensures police officers are spending more time in the neighbourhoods they police,” he said.

“The officers are able to access computer systems, update case files and do all administration that would usually mean a trip back to the nearest police station.

“I fully support the initiative and feel the cost for each tablet is justified if it means the residents of South Yorkshire have more visible policing on the streets and feel safer in their communities.”

Mr Billings’ office said it is estimated that across South Yorkshire Police, the devices will save the equivalent of 150,000 hours of police time - equivalent to having an extra 74 police officers on the streets full-time.

It was announced last week South Yorkshire Police is to lose almost £10m of central Government funding from next April, with its financial support dropping from the current £199.5m to £190m for 2015/16.

The force is already in the process of trying to save £42 million by 2016, which has seen police officer numbers slashed.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt has previously said the tablets will allow officers to do their jobs more effectively.

He said: “I’m fully supportive of any initiative that means that police officers will spend less time in police stations and more time on the streets and in the community. It means that they have all the information they need at their fingertips and can be more effective in their job.”