Software in action Part 1: Proactive policing

When it comes to police communications, people often overlook the importance of document sharing. But in law enforcement, the inability to access the right information at the right time isn’t just inconvenient—it can be deadly.

“Officers respond to calls uninformed of safety precautions,” says Jeffrey Beahen, police chief for Elk River, Minn. “They’re on the scene without knowing if the suspect has any violent history, if they own any guns—nothing.”

An enterprise content management (ECM) software solution gives police departments an important tool for keeping officers safe when responding to emergency calls—and for preventing crime in the first place.

Safe, fast crime fighting

With ECM software, officers now have the ability to securely retrieve a wide variety of digitally stored documents (including citations, restraining orders, arrest reports and more) directly from the laptops in their patrol vehicles. This type of information helps officers bring in suspects safely—and protect the public’s safety, too.

For example, when responding to calls about emotionally disturbed persons, officers from Ontario’s Hamilton Police Service were forced to drive back to the station to look up past reports or place a call and wait for a records clerk to pull the report and read it to them over the phone. Either way, these officers would be off the street, sometimes for hours, waiting for the necessary information to inform their actions.

Using ECM software, however, officers responding to the same call can now pull up reports right in their patrol car, accessing information vital to the safety of the emotionally disturbed person—and the public—using just a name, incident number or other simple keyword.

Of course, as government agencies, police departments must also protect the integrity of their information by adhering to strict codes and compliance requirements. Fortunately, ECM providers make information security a top priority, and role-based security features prevent unauthorized access to confidential information.

Gang activity in Long Beach

Because ECM software makes case files and related information much more accessible, it’s easier for police departments to identify trends and anticipate dangerous situations before they occur. For example, the Long Beach (Calif. ) Police Department, has used an ECM system from Laserfiche to proactively reduce gang crime.

“By pairing technology with recently implemented procedure, we’ve been able to reduce violent crime in the face of severe budget constraints,” says LBPD Chief Jim McDonnell.

He explains that the city’s ECM system enabled officers “to spend less time on administrative tasks and use that time to keep the streets safe.”

In particular, the use of Laserfiche ECM has made it much easier for officers to reduce gang crime. On Nov. 8, 2010, the LBPD along with Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and City Prosecutor Doug Haubert announced a massive gang injunction against more than 100 known gang members with ties to the Mexican Mafia. The injunction targets gang members from all over Los Angeles County who commit crimes in Long Beach—not just those who live in Long Beach.

Gang injunctions are court-issued restraining orders prohibiting gang members from participating in specific activities such as loitering, smoking marijuana or wearing gang colors. These injunctions allow officers to arrest named gang members, who have been properly served, for injunction violations rather than waiting for a more serious crime to occur.

In order to make an arrest based on a gang injunction, officers must first confirm that the gang member in question has previously been served a copy of all court documents related to the injunction. Before implementing the current ECM system, LBPD officers were forced to make numerous phone calls to confirm proof of service. Tracking down the paperwork was frequently a time-consuming task that resulted in missed opportunities to make arrests.

Today, a tight, three-way integration between Laserfiche, Tiburon (LBPD’s records management system) and Business Objects (LBPD’s business intelligence software) gives officers the ability to pull up reports containing hyperlinks to documents stored in the ECM system. Using the laptops in their patrol cars, officers can instantly access the injunction-related information and documents needed to make arrests.

By using technology and intervening before gang members have a chance to commit violent crimes, the LBPD has made its community a safer place to live. “Gang-related crimes are expensive to investigate,” McDonnell says. “By reducing the number of serious crimes committed by known gang members, we’re able to streamline services while increasing public safety.”

Real-time, field-ready info

Police departments that use ECM software empower officers to fight crime more swiftly, safely and proactively.

“We’re talking real-time investigative tools at the officers’ fingertips,” Beahen adds. “When you think of instantly delivering to every officer’s car every piece of information that’s in our criminal files, that’s huge.”

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Kimberly Samuelson joined Laserfiche in 2001 as a regional manager. She currently serves as director of government strategy. Samuelson is a 17-year software industry veteran and a frequent presenter at industry events. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Rutgers University. Connect with Laserfiche by visiting