Before the coronavirus pandemic started raging in the United States, the number one issue in law enforcement was the labor shortage. Agencies nationwide were having difficulty filling their ranks of sworn personnel.
This meant that law enforcement agencies were being tasked with doing the same job with fewer people. And it’s why so much of the law enforcement technology developed in the last few years focuses on increasing officer efficiency.
Here’s a look at how some of these tools are maximizing the time that officers can give to keeping the public safe.
Alternate Training Platforms
One of the most expensive and time-consuming operations in any law enforcement agency is training. It not only costs money to conduct in-service training for officers, it pulls them off the streets. That means agencies have to pay overtime to officers who are not involved in the training so they can maintain the same level of service.
This is why there has been so much emphasis on web-based training in the last year or so. Online training does not require butts in seats. Officers can be trained during downtime on shift or during roll calls.
Envisage Technologies and TargetSolutions are two of the leading providers of online training material for law enforcement.
Acadis Readiness Suite from Envisage Technologies is a training management solution that has a number of applications, including certification management, online training delivery and testing, budgeting, scheduling of both online and classroom training, and more.
One of the primary tools included in the Acadis Readiness Suite is the Acadis Learning Management System (LMS). The LMS allows agencies to create online training courses that include videos and other interactive content.
Because testing is critical to the certification process, LMS also includes testing features. Users can create tests and assign them to online learners through the software. LMS can also monitor coursework and let users know when it is completed.
If an instructor assigns a discussion as part of coursework, the LMS Training Monitor lets them view key metrics about the discussion and add documents for student review. LMS also lets instructors and law enforcement leaders survey their officers about the training.
TargetSolutions can currently deliver 240 modules of law enforcement-specific training to any web-enabled device. The course catalog also includes training that is essential for any public safety agency such as sexual harassment, workplace drug and alcohol abuse awareness, professional development, and OSHA requirements.
Using TargetSolutions, agencies can push out training to officers and track their performance. This makes the software very useful for training officers in new and/or amended policies.
Reducing the number of steps involved in relaying information from dispatchers to officers in the field and from officer to officer not only makes officers more efficient but also safer. Last year CentralSquare Technologies and Motorola Solutions both launched communication tools designed to facilitate clearer and faster information transfer.
CentralSquare Technologies announced at last fall’s International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference in Chicago that it was improving its products with the goal of making officers more effective in the field.
One of the elements of CentralSquare’s efficiency enhancements was to make its software easier for officers to use. The company said that making its software more user friendly would enhance officer safety because officers would not have to spend as much time looking at their screens and would have their eyes up for better situational awareness. Also, they would be able to receive information more quickly and respond faster.
Steve Seoane, executive vice president and general manager for public safety at CentralSquare, says the goal of the company’s latest software enhancements is to cut the amount of time from 911 call through officer response.
Motorola Solutions announced the APX NEXT radio at the most recent IACP show. The company’s APX NEXT is a combination Project 25 radio handset and LTE device. When a radio signal is not available, it can use LTE such as dedicated public safety networks from FirstNet or Verizon to maintain communications. The APX NEXT can also receive texts.
The APX NEXT also features Motorola’s new ViQi (“Vicky”) virtual assistant. As you would with Siri or Alexa, you can give ViQi voice commands. For example, it can change channels or change volume hands free. More importantly officers can ask ViQi to run a plate.
The APX NEXT prevents dangerous radio dead zones from disrupting law enforcement operations, making officers more efficient. In addition, ViQi gives officers the ability to perform numerous tasks faster by using voice commands.
The officer shortage has forced many law enforcement agencies to look for new ways to do the most possible with the officers they have on duty. One way these agencies are managing to protect their communities is by exploiting the capabilities of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly referred to as “drones.” Some agencies are using drones on patrol, and some even used drones to supervise beach and park closings during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
For more than a year, the Chula Vista (CA) Police Department has been using drones to supplement its patrol units. Chula Vista PD uses technology from the Motorola Solutions company Cape to operate drones for initial response on emergency calls and to gather intelligence before officers arrive on scene. The CVPD even has a Beyond Visual Line of Sight provision on its FAA Certificate of Authorization. Using Cape’s cloud-based drone operation software, the agency’s authorized pilots can control and manipulate the UAS far from police headquarters.
Patrol is not the only law enforcement operation that needs new tools to enhance officer performance. Investigators also need ways to streamline their processes and reduce tedious and repetitive work. One extremely tedious task that can be automated through artificial intelligence is the screening of evidentiary video for known offenders.
IDentify from Veritone uses an agency’s own databases of known offenders and databases shared by other agencies to search for matches of individuals in evidentiary video. The software also helps investigators organize all of the information about the case.
One of the most time-consuming tasks in law enforcement is report writing. It’s estimated that some officers spend as much as a third of their time on the job producing reports. The officer shortage is making that time allocation a big problem, which is why two of the nation’s leading technology companies, Axon and Nuance, are trying to make the process of report writing easier and faster.
Axon CEO Rick Smith has for several years now championed the concept of automatically creating written reports through artificial intelligence analysis of evidentiary video from body cameras and in-vehicle recording systems.
Sadly, we’re still probably five to 10 years away from that concept being a reality but the first steps toward it are happening now. Axon introduced Axon Records back in 2018.
Axon Records is not fully automated, but it does offer time-saving features such as predictive typing, which eliminates the need for officers typing the same words repeatedly. The software also lets users quickly incorporate video footage, photos, documents, and citizen-captured evidence into an incident report.
Axon calls Records a “force multiplier” because it is designed to prevent officers from having to duplicate work. “By combining AI with the power of the Axon network, Axon Records will be able to automatically pull in data from body-worn and in-car video, and publicly submitted evidence to pre-populate incident reports,” the company says.
Another way to make reporting more efficient is through spoken dictation. Which is why Nuance launched Dragon Law Enforcement in 2016.
Dragon Law Enforcement is a powerful dictation tool that works with RMS systems and other applications. Nuance claims a 99% accuracy level for the software.
Nuance says there are two major benefits to Dragon LE. It reduces the amount of time that officers are working on computers in their cars or in the station so that they are more visible in the community and it improves officer safety by allowing officers to stay more situationally aware on duty.
“The volume of mandated paperwork we generate continues to grow, causing officers to spend more time creating reports than policing the community. With Nuance, our officers don’t compromise on accuracy or speed—they deliver detailed reports, on time, and in alignment with compliance mandates,” says Captain Paul Williams of the San Bernardino (CA) Police Department.
Dragon LE can process typical law enforcement language and abbreviations. For example, officers can document license plate lookups by saying “Alpha Bravo Charlie 123” and Dragon will interpret it as “ABC123.”
Nuance says that Dragon LE can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to produce a report. “A report that takes one hour to complete can be dictated within minutes when the details of an incident are top of mind,” the company says.