Let's face it. Records management is hardly a riveting activity for most law enforcement agencies. What if you could retrieve, update, store and share your records with automated software? What if your dispatcher could give more information to your mobile data terminal with interfacing software? What if you could write incident reports with the terminal in minutes without leaving the patrol car?
Suddenly the records management system discussion has more pizzazz, right?
The two most important facets of law enforcement RMS are data acquisition and retrieval, making automation attractive. Further fueling the automation trend is a need among police departments to improve accuracy and reliability of records, cut the cost of data entry by eliminating duplication of effort and allow for integrating computer-aided dispatch and RMS.
Records tracking software can accomplish all of this, and it abounds for varying sizes of law enforcement departments. Before going electronic, however, remember these points:
- Nearly every software program will accomplish the same basic functions. The software must integrate with dispatch, mobile data, field reporting and other modules.
- You should be able to buy a system that meets your budget. A low-priced RMS offering full functionality and integration isn't always a "red flag;" it usually can affordably accomplish the same tasks as higher-priced solutions even if your department must phase in RMS, then CAD, and other key modules.
- Clearly identify what you need your RMS software to accomplish so you judge software packages objectively and accurately.
It takes all sizes
While large police departments routinely buy records software to address issues with their records, mid-sized departments and smaller ones have the same issues.
Crimestar Corp. of San Jose, Calif., offers its Crimestar RMS System, available for small agencies (serving populations of below 20,000), and mid-size and large police agencies. Two product versions are offered: Crimestar Enterprise Edition for police departments with 30 or more officers and Crimestar Professional Edition for agencies having 30 or fewer officers.
Crimestar RMS combines several reporting processes. It retrieves and stores details on a variety of law enforcement documents such as accident reports, citations, field interviews, incident/crime reports, warrants, driver's licenses, firearms registration and investigations. CAD and mobile digital communications systems are available as well, and work with Crimestar RMS.
According to Alec Gagne, Crimestar Corp.'s president, automating records couldn't be timelier. "There's a greater volume of data to be captured, stored, managed and analyzed," says Gagne, a former police officer. "And this is making automation more necessary now than it ever has been. This used to be the case primarily with large law enforcement agencies, but now that dynamic is pushing its way to small towns," he adds. "There's just more information to be managed."
Chief David Seastrand of the New London, N.H., Police Department, with eight officers, agrees. He initially purchased the Crimestar RMS system, later adding Crimestar's fully integrated CAD and Mobile Digital Communicator (MDC) programs.
He says linking Crimestar RMS directly into dispatch was critical "so that our dispatcher could record a lot of the initial information and [once sent real-time to mobile data terminals in patrol cars] the officers could backfill the remainder [data]." The result is a more complete record for officers to view, and to compare with master record databases, as they determine how to respond to incidents.
Officers also prepare incident reports using the Crimestar's Mobile Data Communications System — linked to electronic records and tied to CAD — in their patrol car. "It now takes 20 minutes [to prepare the report] where before it would take 2 1/2 hours at the station," says Seastrand.