Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke pushed through plans for police force reduction – he outlined government aims of a cut from today’s 43 to a new total of 24 in England and Wales – critics, many of them senior police officers, argue that effective delivery of law enforcement will be hampered by unwieldy new structures. But it is overwhelmingly likely that the next two years will see at least some consolidation, even if some regional forces win their fights to avoid becoming ‘superforces’, and ICT is sure to be a key factor in such success or failure.

Staffordshire Police is one force that has long recognised the contribution of technology. With an area of over 1,000 square miles to cover, much of it rural, anything that increases its effectiveness has been quickly adopted. In 2005 it achieved the largest performance improvement of any force in the UK thanks to improved information availability and co-ordination. A significant investment in business intelligence software helped deliver its targets in the way it deals with call handling and emergency response times, improved personal safety and so on.

For the last three years the force has also been a significant user of mobile technology, equipping uniformed staff with specially ruggedised laptops using GPRS connectivity and thin-client technology so they spend less time back at the station filling forms and more time on the beat. The force has also started to implement a single sign-on process for access to all its secure systems to further save time and money.