PNLD's innovative Ask the Police portal has saved police forces across the country millions of pounds
The police receive thousands of calls each week from members of the public. Although important, these calls are, inevitably, time consuming. Many of the questions focus on routine aspects of criminal law or police procedures and are repeated time and time again.
Over recent years advances in technology has resulted in increased access and use of web enabled devices. More people are searching for answers online, at a time to suit them. The Police National Legal Database (PNLD) was commissioned to create the ‘Ask the Police’ website in response to this demand. This has helped to facilitate a significant change in the way police information and advice can be obtained. www.askthe.police.uk ‘Ask the Police’ contains nationally consistent answers to around 850 of the most frequently asked questions posed to the police.
PDMS had already established a great working relationship with PNLD – through our first project to develop a legal document management system and we were able to deliver the 'Ask the Police' portal to a very tight deadline. In addition to designing and developing the portal, PDMS also provide a fully managed service which includes hosting.
By accessing this free website, the public can quickly and easily find the answers they need; they are then empowered to decide what course of action they should take. ‘Ask the Police’ features a wide range of topics, from what to do after a road accident to whom to contact about rubbish being dumped in your neighbourhood. Visitors to the site can also ask a question by email. This facility has been adopted with great enthusiasm and emails are received not only from the UK, but globally. PNLD aim to give an answer within 24 hours, and new questions and answers are being added to the site continually to reflect the changing concerns of the public.
The answers provided are consistent, no matter which of the 43 police forces is contacted. In addition to reducing the burden on busy police staff, a facility has been developed to enable users to add pertinent information. The content is only visible by internal staff and provides an effective tool for training purposes. In order to more closely meet the needs of the community, each force can add information for the public specific to their locality, such as neighbourhood policing contact details.
The site has proved so successful that a version for Police Scotland has been created and can be found at: www.askthe.scottish.police.uk
Since the launch, the websites have been visited over 50 million times and PNLD’s highly qualified legal team now receive and answer up to 2,000 emails per month. The upward trend is still continuing. The ‘Ask the Police’ website is now widely recognised as a valuable public resource of police information. Many forces have benefited from embedding ‘Ask the Police’ within their websites. This facility is available on subscription along with an optional provision of a statistical package. This increase has contributed towards a corresponding reduction in non- emergency calls to the police, allowing staff to be more effectively redeployed, thus promoting a more efficient use of budgets and resources. The potential savings for the police in respect of cost, time and resources is huge in comparison to the cost of an average nonemergency telephone call - just from the click of a button!
It is estimated that the www.askthepolice.uk saves the Police Service over £12 million per year.
Most recently PDMS has worked with PNLD on both Apple and Android versions of 'Ask the Police' apps.