Transcription, translation and the death of distance

     The delivery of municipal services is a daunting task. Demands for service are increasing. Municipalities are also subject to a variety of state and federal mandates. These often require cities to provide more services with the same or fewer...


     The delivery of municipal services is a daunting task. Demands for service are increasing. Municipalities are also subject to a variety of state and federal mandates. These often require cities to provide more services with the same or fewer resources.

     Against this backdrop, law enforcement agencies are searching for ways to leverage its expertise and budgets. Technological innovation has always been a proven means toward that end. Law enforcement has come a long way since the Albany (New York) Police Department embraced the telegraph in 1877; the Washington, D.C. Police Department installed telephones in its precinct houses in 1878; and the Detroit (Michigan) Police Department began using one-way radios in 1928.

     Commenting on the emergence of today's Web-based technologies, the editors of "The Economist" magazine have proclaimed, "the death of distance." The use of the Internet for transcription and translation outsourcing illustrates this point. Someone sitting at a desk can securely, confidentially and quickly transcribe interviews occurring hundreds of miles away. Furthermore, law enforcement agencies, both large and small, can benefit from this most basic of Internet innovations.

     According to Karen Montgomery, an investigative assistant with the Idaho State Police, outsourcing has been an asset to her department. She adds that "It allows our support staff and detectives to focus on their actual assignments, leaving transcription to other professionals."

     Maj. Phil Deeds, commander of the Internal Affairs Bureau of the Denver (Colorado) Sheriff's Department, understands the integrity of the investigatory process is essential. He notes that "the importance of security, confidentiality and a fast turnaround can't be over emphasized."

     Montgomery echoes Deed's sentiments and concern in confidentiality. Investigating this matter, her agency spoke with other agencies already utilizing the proposed vendor. "We felt that confidentiality was no longer an issue," she says.

Price, ease-of-use and time

     The development of secure and confidential Internet technology has led more and more law enforcement agencies to adopt outsourcing. Furthermore, it is easy to use and costs less — with savings beginning immediately. No up-front investment is required.

     Of course, price is only one of many considerations. Agencies are also concerned with ease of use.

     Montgomery's experience with Web-based transcription outsourcing has been positive. "If you can use the Internet, you can outsource transcription," he says.

     User-friendly outsourcing will become increasingly important as fewer qualified transcriptionists face increased demand for transcription and translation, both of which are rising at double-digit rates. Likewise, the cost of keeping transcription and translation in-house will soar, placing more demands on limited budgets.

     Capt. Doug Christiansen of the Cape Coral (Florida) Police Department Investigative Services Bureau says, "Our staff can't keep up with rising demand, which has doubled in the last five years. We don't have sufficient internal support staff to handle our increasing transcription needs."

     Even though Web-based technology has demonstrated its ability to absorb skyrocketing demand for transcription and translation — and also cut costs, the adoption of innovative technologies with demonstrable benefits can be frustrated by diminished workforce competencies. The simplicity of the technology negates these kinds of internal shortcomings.

     Deeds describes his department's transition to Web-based outsourcing as "seamless" with no problems other than the occasional operator error. Sheryl McCart, an investigative assistant in the Investigative Services Bureau of the Florida Cape Coral PD had similar positive experiences. "The transition to Web-based transcription outsourcing went smoothly," she says.

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