"We've gone from a hardcopy system where officers prepared a five-ply report that was split up and sent in different directions," Perez says. "It was a very manual process and the reports didn't always make it to where they needed to go in the time they needed to. For example, a report might be bounced back to an officer because it was incomplete and it might sit on his or her desk for a few days if they were out."
Plus, he continues, they were using manpower to move these reports around. A clerk would have to take them, review for accuracy, then manually enter or scan the information into the system, and this created additional room for error.
"In this day and age, our goal should not be to duplicate work; it should be to write a name and a narrative once," Perez stresses. "This is a more efficient way to capture and manage data."
The Stockton (California) Police Department relies on an imaging software system to manage field reports, documents, cases, etc., says Ron Birchard, supervising police records assistant. The officer types the data into a report writing system. Once it's turned into a permanent document, it's then entered into the imaging system so that others can look at it. This entire process happens electronically.
The system also includes hardcopy reports related to the electronic reports/cases. These are scanned in and included with the case. The information is accessed by agencies that include the district and city attorneys' office, county probation, risk management folks and even the fire department in the case of arson investigations. Parole is starting to use it as well, says Birchard.
"Sharing information before this system? We burned a photocopy and routed the hardcopy both inside and outside," says Birchard. "It was all hardcopy. We were using up 12 cases of paper a week. When we were fully instituted with this system, we cut down to three cases a week. With what we were using in paper, ink and copiers, we've probably paid for this system in these savings alone."
Currently, there are two million pieces of paper, which otherwise would be sitting around on desks, in filing cabinets or storage, scanned into the system, says Birchard. The department has begun scanning restraining orders, either sent by the court or brought in by the citizen. Previously, if an officer went out on a call and the citizen said he or she had a restraining order, officers had to call in to have a clerk find the order and read it to them over the phone.
"Officer still have to call in, but locating the report takes just seconds now; all we have to do is type in the name and DOB (if there are two of the same names in the system)," says Birchard. "It's fast and accurate. We're working on a wireless system to give officers access to this in the field. We're hoping to have this up by the end of the year."
The Howell County (Missouri) Sheriff's Office has found the electronic dissemination of information a key benefit with its new RMS system. The agency's RMS software allows officers, dispatchers and secretaries to electronically capture and disseminate information, from booking and arrests, accident reports, calls for service, be-on-the lookout reports, citations, property and evidence tracking, warrant information and more, says Lt. Mike Coldiron of Howell County's administrative division.
"Our goal is to enter any and all information we can on any call, person or address we have information on, [such as] the reason for repeat calls, prior history, parties involved, etc.," he says. "Agencies need to be able to share data; a large link to a crime could be lost with information that a police department has that the sheriff's department does not."
Coldiron recalls an incident where he had stopped a suspect for a traffic offense. Records showed the driver was wanted with an arrest warrant. However, the suspect claimed her ID had been stolen by a family member. When Coldiron accessed the agency's database from his patrol laptop, he was able to tap into a booking photo in the arrest module.
"I was able to identify the photo of the person who had been arrested in our facility, which didn't match the person I had stopped," he says. "This saved a lot of time and trouble."