For the most part, the long-ago days of officers dropping accident reports into a metal wire basket to be typed into the system are gone. Patrol vehicles have been equipped with computers for some time now, so the next logical step is even more automation and making data collection easier and more efficient.
“We're definitely in a transition phase, agencies have finally accepted this new norm. A couple of years ago they were in denial and thinking they don't need the technology — they could do the police work using the old tools that they had access to. Now more and more younger, sworn leaders are taking the oath of becoming chief and the commissioners and colonels. They are heavily relying on data driven decisions,” says Salman Anwar, senior director, strategic alliances, for LexisNexis Coplogic Solutions.
Technology now enables officers to more quickly electronically collect data on the side of the road or at an incident scene. Paired with that, analytic capabilities on the data that has been collected helps supervisors in an agency visualize that data and in turn make data-driven decisions, Anwar points out.
“If an agency is experiencing a high number of accidents in a particular roadway segment during a certain time of the day, they can quickly look at that information with a few clicks and extract that information and push it down to the briefing. Before every shift starts, there's a briefing where the supervisors inform the incoming shift officers what they should be working on or what they should be aware of,” Anwar says.
He points out that in the past when officers had to pencil in accident reports, the flow of data to supervisors was much slower. Anwar says at best it would take one day and up to even six or seven days before a supervisor could look at a data set.
“What we've been making better over the course of time is getting officers off the traffic scene quicker and then taking that data that they've collected and making it useful for the back-office leadership to make decisions,” Anwar adds.
Analytics can help leaders make data driven decisions to know what is likely to increase traffic safety. Data now can help agencies transition to being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to traffic crashes. Law enforcement leaders can now pinpoint areas where speeding causes a high number of crashes and increase enforcement. They can also identify places where there may need to be traffic pattern changes, street repairs, or other contributing factors and lead infrastructure discussions with city councils, department of transportation elements, and other key stakeholders.
How does all this benefit an officer? He or she can now clear the stop faster because information can be incorporated into reports more quickly by using tools like barcode scanning to import driver license information or the ability to run a license plate and bring that DMV information into the form. No longer does the officer have to key in 17 characters of a VIN manually while on the side of the road.
“That's the core goal we've had, to make the life of an officer easier. And then on the back end, every report that officer completes goes through a validation process. We work with the agency with the state that they're in,” says Anwar. “There's a lot of defined rules that we have added onto our form, and we don't let an officer submit a report that has not gone through a verification process. If your agency is not electronic, not using the new advanced tools, the onus is on the agency to train their officers correctly and then to train their supervisor correctly to catch all of these complex rules.”
“We implement all of those validation rules onto the form so when the officer gets rid of all of the red errors and they submit the report, then there are less chances of that report getting kicked back by either their immediate supervisor, or when the data goes to their final destination, which is usually the state, it could be a DOT, it could be a DPS in another state, whoever is the custodian of that data set. So that's another thing that we have done within our software that eliminates the need of excessive review process,” he adds.
There are a lot of considerations to take into account when an agency is considering using electronic data capture and automated crash reporting. Fortunately, Anwar has some advice. He suggests you consider:
1. Fully Automated, Electronic Data Collection and Processing Capabilities
To support operational efficiency, look for a solution that enables your officers to electronically capture crash data in the field, at the scene, which often includes a traffic citation. The technology should support the complete, end-to-end digitization of your workflow, allowing you to manage the process from the crash scene through to report distribution to authorized parties in a way that is compliant with the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). You’ll spend less time, money and resources on data collection, paperwork, and in-person inquiries. You’ll also improve the accuracy and timeliness of your data by enhancing service levels when you’re able to distribute crash reports online, 24/7.
2. Cloud-Based Technology
Nothing can upgrade and enhance your field-based reporting like a cloud-based delivery system. Instead of having to switch between different systems, like crash reporting and citation applications for example, cloud technology can provide your officers with a single, integrated system for simplified crash reporting and ticketing across virtually all devices including their MDTs and mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. In turn, this helps improve officer productivity and safety by enabling them to clear crash scenes faster. It also allows your agency to take control of your forms since you can manage everything—including required edits and updates—online, via a single point of entry.
3. Native Mobile Capability
Today’s mobile world demands technology that can adapt to the ever-evolving policing environment. Mobile apps can help by giving your field officers increased flexibility, regardless of how they’re policing—be it on foot, horse, bike, motorcycle, or in a cruiser. What’s more, these apps work on a variety of devices that are ideal for field work, including smartphones, tablets, or smaller wearable devices that are now more cost-effective than ever. For example, a native smartphone application can enable officers to scan a driver’s license or VIN number and prefill information into the crash report while also supporting speech-to-text entry and the ability to upload a photo or video. Apart from becoming more agile and efficient on the job, your officers can also better engage with the community by using tech-forward tools.
4. Single Sign-On Integration and Authentication with Your RMS Vendor
For the utmost efficiency, a crash reporting solution should be fully capable of integration with your RMS vendor. Crash data should flow seamlessly into the RMS solution, allowing officers to easily move from one application to another within a “single pane” using the agency’s active directory.
5. Robust, User-Friendly Data and Analytics Visualizations
Look for solutions that can automatically convert your crash data into easy-to-read heat maps, graphs, charts, and illustrated dashboard views. You’ll clearly see what’s happening on your roadways in near real-time, so you can take corrective action to reduce crashes and save more lives. What’s more, the improved visibility can help your agency make data-driven decisions about officer deployment and resource allocation, while providing increased transparency to officers, the community, media, as well as state and federal grantors regarding important law enforcement decisions, statistics, and trends.