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Police Family Harm app recognised with national IT award


A phone app designed to help frontline Police staff better respond to family harm incidents has been recognised with a win in this year’s national Excellence in IT Awards.

The NZ Police Family Harm Application Team was a finalist in the Excellence in Software category, at the awards held last week in Wellington.

The award recognises a “team or individual who has achieved outstanding results in software innovation, development, design, marketing, testing, or any other aspect of the software process in any environment.” Outside of the core project team, around 70 Police staff across the business have been involved.

The OnDuty Family Harm Investigation app was designed to ensure police officers responding to episodes of family harm (formerly known as a domestic dispute) have a wider range of information available to them, and to make their reporting and investigations of family harm more efficient, bringing better outcomes.

The development team spent hundreds of hours shadowing frontline officers to get a sense of the realities involved in attending a family harm episode.

Since the app went live in May 2018, there have been around 14,000 family harm episodes recorded nationally.

Superintendent Rob Cochrane, Director of Mobility, says thanks to the app there are more officers out and about, spending more time visible in our communities and making a difference to all New Zealanders.

“It’s made a real difference to our frontline staff in terms of being more prepared when attending an episode, ensuring more targeted help is provided to families, and minimising the time spent on writing reports.”

It’s estimated the app will replace approximately more than 1.5 million pages of paperwork.

Each family harm episode used to require a 12-page form to be filled in.

Officers attending these events now have direct links to information in the National Intelligence Application (NIA), including necessary background detail on people involved and their history.

This means staff can get right to the heart of continuing to help those in need, without needing to spend time on recording some of the information.

The new information gathered during time spent with families is stored digitally within the app, meaning less time spend writing reports back at the station.

The app also offers a new approach to gathering and eliciting information at the scene, including questions in a number of different languages, ensuring a fuller picture of what’s happening in and around the family can be gained.

“This allows our staff to spend more time with those in need, helping establish the next chapter in the book, rather than re-writing the book each time,” Superintendent Cochrane says.

Information already shared between Police and partner agencies is now also done in a more efficient manner.

Superintendent Cochrane says it’s pleasing that the app has won independent recognition from the information technology sector.

“We think our app is world-leading, and it’s nice to be recognised by professionals in the industry who agree with us.”

The awards write-up noted that: “Seeing technology deployed to help solve New Zealand’s shamefully high levels of domestic violence is an inspiring use of technology.”

ENDS

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