Better communications for special constables

The Special Constabulary in Bedfordshire has implemented Cobweb Solutions’ Hosted Windows SharePoint Services, a team-working and collaboration tool that gives special constables within the force real-time, online access to crucial information.

Jan 26, 2006
By David Howell

The Special Constabulary in Bedfordshire has implemented Cobweb Solutions’ Hosted Windows SharePoint Services, a team-working and collaboration tool that gives special constables within the force real-time, online access to crucial information.

It also provides them with the functionality to update their availability for weekly duties and allows higher-ranking special officers to collaborate on important documents over the internet. This new approach to working has helped the force to improve productivity and speed up the decision making process.

Prior to the implementation of Cobweb’s systems the only means of sharing key information amongst special constables was at pre-planned regular section meetings or via a group email address. Invariably some volunteers would not be able to make these meetings and there was no guarantee that the group emails were actually being received.

Nigel Green, Special Constable Co-ordinator said: “Our special constables have all provided an email address on which they can most easily be reached. They might access this via a home PC, at work or even at an internet café. This procedure takes a matter of minutes for us to execute, whereas before we’d spend hours calling our teams to see who would be available for duty at short notice. We’ve definitely observed a significant reduction in our phone bills since we began working with Cobweb Solutions, as well as this freeing up hours of my time each week.”

Part of the nature of volunteering is that special constables might have more free time one week than another. With Cobweb’s solution, special constables can simply access Bedfordshire Police’s new dedicated SharePoint web site with their own login and password and update their availability. Supervisors can then easily and quickly alter rosters accordingly and distribute a notification email, without making a lengthy series of telephone calls. Predictability of cost through Cobweb’s pay-as-you-go, per user, per month pricing system also allows for the Special Constabulary to keep its costs down in response to changing workforce numbers and structure. The constabulary currently has 214 users, with a capacity of 250.

Security was also a huge concern for the Constabulary. Roger Wilshaw, a Bedfordshire Police special constable who instigated the implementation of Cobweb’s systems said: “Due to the confidential nature of the information being shared on the Bedfordshire Police SharePoint website, security was a key requirement. The system allows us to protect our information through security controls that only allow the correct users to see the data that they should. Cobweb’s commitment to security best practice standards such as ISO27001 provided us with real peace of mind that the integrity and security of our data was in good hands.”

He added: “As well as each special constable being given their own log in and password, higher-ranking special officers have additional access permissions and editing capabilities, which Cobweb tightly monitors on our behalf. If required, an officer – or in some cases teams of police officers – can access the same report and work together to alter documents and make comments online. This approach has resulted in a quicker and more informed decision making process.”

Nigel Green concluded: “Cobweb’s Hosted Windows SharePoint Services has provided us with an incredibly easy and quick method of sharing key information, procedures and training materials with our special constables, who each week give up their valuable spare time to support the Bedfordshire Police force and the local community.”

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