High-Tech System Streamlines Reports

It's not that I begrudge writing reports, although I certainly appreciate anything that makes the job easier. But I am always looking for other ways police departments help officers handle reports quicker, such as Coplogic.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

One thing that's bugged me for the better part of three decades is the amount of redundant and wholly unnecessary paperwork. OK, maybe not wholly unnecessary. But paperwork that could certainly be streamlined.

It's not that I begrudge writing reports, although I certainly appreciate anything that makes the job easier. For instance, I like Dragonspeak software, and will happily prostitute myself more aggressively on its behalf the day I fall in love with it (like when its recognition accuracy approaches 99 percent).

But I am always looking for other ways police departments help officers handle reports quicker.

Some allow their officers to dictate reports that are then transcribed by highly appreciative secretaries.

Others re-formulate their forms so as to have as many check-off boxes as possible (I'm sure somewhere out there is a homicide check-off report form).

If you were a deputy working Temple City in the mid-'80s, you had a pretty good chance of getting a citizen holding a misdemeanor suspect arrest right out the gate. Often, this was at the K-Mart right next door to the station.

Security at the time told me that a million dollars worth of unpaid merchandise walked out the front doors every year. This was why every time some dude got busted for stealing some hair restoration product he was too embarrassed to buy, they flagged him for me or whoever happened to be on that day.

Besides a collective waste of time relative to the dollar amount loss and the likelihood of the case getting filed, it was a son-of-a-bitch filling out the dull, boring attendant report forms. But we did it. And I always wondered why the hell we had to since the security guards inevitably had already written their own statement of facts incident to their arrest of said perp.

But ours was not to ask, but to do, so like every other lemming I went along with the program.

Well, one nice thing about trade shows is you get to see things you don't get to see if you work for the Pauper Police. And such was the case last week when I checked out a relatively new report generating system.

The Coplogic Online report filing system allows law enforcement agencies to make their report forms available via cyberspace. Visitors to an agency's Website can then download the forms and fill out the paperwork themselves ("I, John Citizen, being of questionable sanity and dull-normal IQ, left my Rolex watch and wallet in plain view atop the dashboard of my personal vehicle which was parked outside a biker rally...").

Aside from getting reports processed that much quicker, citizen use of such forms frees up cops so that they can get back into the field sooner. San Francisco launched the system and within the first month of going live was able to receive 10 percent of its reports online. Fremont (Calif.) PD consistently receives 20 to 30 percent of its reports online every month through the application.

It really alleviates the amount of time officers spend out in the field taking calls that really don't require a police presence, while allowing the citizens to not be inconvenienced by not waiting for a response time and being able to make sure that the information that they want to be in a report is inside that report. They also receive a PDF copy of that report via e-mail. So even the front desk personnel of the agency benefit by not having a long line of citizens requesting copies of reports. Being able to handle minor incident reports online allows victims of major crimes to be cared for more quickly. Reports can be filed online or at a lobby kiosk, freeing up the desk officer's time.

Fremont (Calif.) PD recovered 3,500 manhours over a six-month period. Stockton (Calif.) PD recovered 1,300 hours in just one month.

Methods of getting the word out vary, with some police agencies advertising their report forms through Website or dispatch referral; others issue press releases. Many will incorporate multiple approaches.

According to Andrew Cartwright, executive director of Coplogic, one of the cool things about the system is that almost all installation, support, maintenance, and training is done remotely. It becomes a matter of convenience right out the gate. The system is very intuitive, and many agencies can begin to use the system based on the demo that is available.

Once completed, reports are reviewed by an officer at the agency. At some agencies it is sworn personnel, others it is civilian personnel who might otherwise be responsible for taking reports over the phone anyway.

Upon review, the report can be accepted or dismissed. The citizen is informed of the reason for rejection - which is more than some cops can hope for - or the citizen can provide the agency with additional information via the online system.

Price depends on agency size and RMS (records management system) used by the agency, as well as citizen population size. Smaller agencies can expect to pay $15,000 to $20,000, including first year support and maintenance. Larger agencies with a citizen population in the multi-millions can expect to pay $100,000 to $125,000.

More than 130 agencies are already using the system across the United States and Canada. But it's a drop in the bucket compared to how many could be (I'm sure that some agencies are probably using similarly commercially available reporting systems: More power to them).

Ancillary benefits are many. Some Massachusetts officers were able to recover property because of the information contained in the report simply because the descriptions that are coming in from the citizens are far more detailed than the ones taken out in the field. When a citizen has one major report to write that day, it's his or her own report and you're going to get every possible detail involved.

Police agencies' IT personnel like it because it is easy to install. Coplogic has been around for five years, and its staff, save for IT experts, is comprised of current or former law enforcement. They built the system with a huge insider perspective. Since then, it has been customer driven.

"Stockton PD suggested a secure site filing so security guards could file reports online," says Cartwright. "Fresno came up with an idea for us to track all of the modifications that went into a report before it is filed into their records management system, just in case one of these reports does end up going to court. Fremont came up with the idea to provide supplemental information so that officers can still respond to commercial and residential burglaries, but not have to do any data entry regarding the property. The officer is able to deal with the citizen, take the initial report, and the citizen can enter the complete data online. It doesn't require follow-up a week or two later. Citizens avoid getting upset by having to itemize everything that's missing while the officer is on scene.'

I'm not a shill for Coplogic, just someone who recognizes a good thing when he sees it. And absent any forthcoming horror stories about the product - and if you have 'em, let's hear 'em - I sincerely hope that police agencies look into Coplogic, or at least look at other ways to streamline their operations.

For more information, consider throwing this link on your chief's desk. You might be glad you did.

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Author Dean Scoville Headshot
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