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Remote working 'new normal' with improved information sharing

The sudden switch to laptops during the lockdown has proved the IT case, improving joint working and saving time travelling to meetings, according to force managers and PCCs

The COVID-19 lockdown switched thousands of officers from stations to working from home in a matter of days in March. According to police leaders, the sudden change to remote working ended battles over systems security, data protection and budgets in the battle to stay operational.

Evaluations have shown the change has been a huge success – so much that a full return to bases in September or beyond is not on the cards.

With more money-saving demands likely after the autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review, forces are already indicating they will be encouraging more remote working.

Other successes have included better information sharing and communicating with other agencies involved in specialist work such as child protection. Video conferencing has improved co-ordinating times when people are available and cut the amount of time spent travelling to meetings.

Further benefits from this are reduced vehicle fleet use and a reduction in emissions.

Suffolk Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable Rob Jones revealed in his interview with Police Oracle that the force is evaluating the impact of lockdown on the digital switchover.

“We’re doing quite a lot of work in Suffolk about the learning from working from home. People used to spend huge amounts of time travelling from home and from meetings. In policing in general, we’ve been much more slow than we could have been on this,” he said.

“We had a MAPPA meeting (Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements) to discuss risk and all the agencies were there. We used to really struggle with diaries. And we finished on time.”

Reducing office space could be one of the biggest changes – and the Police’s think tank has already made the move. The Police Foundation has closed its central London office after finding they could manage without it.

Director Rick Muir told Police Oracle: “With this crisis, the Police have been forced to do a lot of things like home working and remote meetings.

“We’ve decided not to go back to our office. We have all been finding it hard to commute anyway. We can get together but we don’t really need to come in every day. There’s a lot of things that won’t go back to how they were before,” he said.

The political leads who will have to lobby the government for more resources and consider how to improve the outcomes of their forces are also clear that people will not be returning to work in the same way.

The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners said that although core policing won’t change, the increased use of IT is here to stay.

APCC Chair, Paddy Tipping told Police Oracle: “The pandemic has taught us new and different ways of working.  Police officers may not always be able to take the same precautions as others in society, but they too have had to adapt to new working practices in order to continue to fight crime, whilst minimising the risk to themselves, colleagues and family.

“As a result, we will continue to see investment in new IT, agile working, and remote working.  The days of long travels to face-to-face meetings are largely over. We won't go back to the past and this will benefit us, both financially and in terms of efficiency.”

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said forces would decide the extent of home working once evaluations on issues like security were complete.

The leader of the officers most likely to be affected said the change was long overdue and that big gains would follow.

President of the Police Superintendents’ Association, Paul Griffiths, told Police Oracle: “Our association has long-called for working arrangements that enable people with caring responsibilities or any other personal need, to work in a way that suits their lifestyle, whilst fully committing to their policing role.

“By empowering our people to work remotely, where this is operationally viable, we are putting our trust and confidence in their ability to work outside of office-based, nine to five constraints. I have every confidence this will reap rewards for the Service and will help us create a positive working culture based on mutual respect, with real potential to enhance the diversity within our workforce.”

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