Prime Minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown has asked the police to come up with a wish list of gadgets they can use to combat crime.
In a speech to the annual conference of chief police officers in Manchester yesterday, Brown suggested technology might help them strike a balance between the demands of volume crime and the need to spend more time going after serious offenders.
"We must do everything to give you the resources, especially the new technology you need to fight crime," he said.
Gadgets they might use included mobile data devices, which could give them more time on the beat and reduce their paper work. Such devices have been mooted as mobile DNA and biometric samplers, while giving police access to databases. They might conceivably be used as mobile identity card readers.
He also applauded recent innovations such as a £1,800 helmet-mounted camera being used by police in London to record anti-social behaviour. Like number-plate-recognition cameras, which automatically check car registrations against databases of supect vehicles, the helmet-cam might be used both to protect police and cut down their paperwork, said Brown. While they might use things like tasers to give them even greater protection against thugs.
"Let me issue this invitation," he said. "I want forces and individual officers to put forward their suggestions."
Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the former chief of police for Northern Ireland, had been asked to take on the search for innovations that were "effective and efficient", but deployed safely so they didn't erode "people's trust and confidence in new technology". Flanagan is already conducting a major review of policing for the Home Office.
Brown wanted to do what he could to help protect people's "fundamental right to be safe and secure", regardless of their "class, colour or creed". Anti-social behaviour "will not be tolerated", he said.
Extremists would be "isolated" from the "moderate majority" so that, "just as [in] the cold war, the government might win the battle of hearts and minds" against dissent. "Irresponsibility" would be penalised. Recalcitrant failed parents would be put right. Fake child pornography would be banned. He proposed protecting families from the forces of "globalisation" by strengthening "British values".
Bobbies would also be put on the beat of every local community and made locally accountable, he said. ®