Researcher looks to identify geeks in NZ's police force

With appropriate permissions in place, Singh hopes to start the data-collection process by the end of the first quarter next year, and bring out the report relatively soon thereafter.

How many cops in New Zealand have recently turned into geeks, thanks to mobile devices that were handed out by the police department?

This is what Dr Harminder Singh, senior lecturer, business information systems, faculty of business and law at AUT University would like to find out in his research.

“Since April 2013, police in New Zealand have been issued iPhones and iPads. This is part of the national roll-out. As of July, there were 6259 officers with an iPhone and 3702 staff were given iPads. The device was decided on how complex their data entry requirements were.

“They are using some basic apps on them. The roll-out itself follows the 11-month trial with the mobile devices where officers with mobile devices reported that they spent 30-minutes more on the streets, and created and concluded more arrest warrants,” says Singh.

The interesting bit for Singh is the fact that officers displayed a range of comfort-levels during the trials. Around 40 per cent found it difficult to use, and around 50 per cent asked for more training on the use of the Internet.

“Most prior research on IT-based innovations in police agencies have looked into why and how innovations are adopted or used, and their outcomes and performance impacts. There has been less research on their impact on individuals, which is this study’s focus,” says Singh.

According to Singh, he would like to research how the mobile devices, and the capabilities they provide, have produced individual reactions in the NZ police, how roles have been morphed, the changes in interactions – if any- between the people on the front-lines and the back end, as well as complementary organisational changes that have been wrought.

“We know that IT-based innovations in police have traditionally created changes in autonomy and control. Front-line officers become less dependent on the back end, and there is blurring of roles. There are also changes in the types of skills that are required. All of this makes for more complex organisations.

“There are so many other questions that could be asked, like how these mobile devices have affected job satisfaction and burnout, whether it has caused a shift in the culture of police work and the bifurcation of the profession into geeks and grunts, so to say. This can also influence the way success is viewed and attained within the police,” says Singh.

With appropriate permissions in place, Singh hopes to start the data-collection process by the end of the first quarter next year, and bring out the report relatively soon thereafter.

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