A £71 million Home Office scheme to give police Blackberrys and other smartphones resulted in just one in 100 West Midlands officers and support staff receiving the equipment, it has been revealed.
But in other forces, every officer received a phone – and there were even some left over for office workers.
MPs criticised the “haphazard” nature of the scheme after the discrepancy was revealed in a report by the National Audit Office.
The Home Office provided funding of £71 million for forces to equip officers with mobile phones between 2008 and 2010.
Ministers hoped the devices would reduce the need for officers to return to police stations, for example to use the internet. This would mean they spent more time on the streets, increasing the visibility of front-line police and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the service.
But the National Audit Office said: “For the majority of the forces we surveyed, the funding available did not enable every officer to receive a mobile device.
“The number of devices procured by forces we surveyed ranges from a device available to one per cent of their police officers and police community support officers to 151 per cent.”
West Midlands Police was able to equip only one per cent of police officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) with devices.
By contrast, Staffordshire Police received enough smartphones to equip every police officer and PCSO - and to hand out spares to other staff.
Ministers also failed to consider how they would measure whether the devices were actually helping forces or not, once they had been provided.
Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons Committee of Public Accounts, said: “Even in terms of getting devices into the hands of officers, execution has been haphazard.