Even before May 2020 and the death of George Floyd during an arrest by Minneapolis officers and the subsequent anti-police protests and riots, law enforcement agencies were facing personnel shortages. The profession has a hard time competing with the salaries paid by private sector jobs, the Michael Brown shooting in 2014 led to intense anti-police sentiment, and there are easier jobs.
This year the officer shortage has reached levels that would have been hard to imagine before the Floyd incident, the protests and riots, and the defunding movement. Many law enforcement agencies can’t find officers to hire, officers who have vested pensions are retiring as fast as they can, and some are just walking away from the profession. The result is that some of the nation’s largest police departments are 20% or more short of their budgeted complement of cops.
The officer shortage has agencies look for tools that make the officers they have more productive. There are a number of efficiency tools that can help officers complete a variety of tasks more quickly and with better results.
E-citation was one of the first law enforcement technologies developed to address the need for increased officer productivity. Converting analog ticketing procedures to e-Citation can save officers time writing out tickets. It also increases the revenue that citationsproduce.
During POLICE Technology 2020, Deputy Chief Jack Fahrnow of the Olathe (KS) Police Department, told attendees that his agency’s use of digiTicket software from Saltus Technologies and Brother printers has resulted in greater accuracy on tickets and has reduced the amount of time required to issue a ticket from as much as 15 minutes down to less than five minutes. The accuracy of the e-Citation system vs. handwritten tickets has resulted in more traffic citation revenue for the city, as fewer tickets are discarded because of illegible handwriting or other problems.
Tyler Technologies is another leading player in e-Citation software. The company’s Brazos solution works on any smartphone, tablet, or ticket writer. Using a built-in or USB scanner, data can be pulled automatically from a driver’s license and registration. Once these items are swiped or scanned, the information auto-populates directly into the citation. Brazos has been credited with completing a traffic stop in as little as 90 seconds—from start to finish—the company says.
Records and Databases
In contemporary law enforcement, patrol officers and investigators in the field, administrators, and even dispatchers need information from a variety of computer databases. So they may spend time switching between different programs to get the intelligence they need.
CentralSquare Technologies’ Public Safety Professional Suite offers all of that information in one place. Pro Suite is a powerful collection of computer-aided dispatch, records management, investigations, and jail management tools, but it runs on a single server, has just one point of login, is just one application, and uses only one database. Combining all of these tools into one suite, means officers don’t have to launch multiple programs and click between them to do their jobs. Pro Suite speeds officer response and gives them key safety information on subjects before they make contact.
Tyler Technologies’ New World Mobile is another tool that gives officers access to multiple databases in the field. Developed for devices such as smartphones and tablets, New World Mobile offers real-time access to CAD information, embedded ESRI Geographic Information Systems tools, and IBR/UCR intelligence. Officers can receive alerts over the system, including missing children or senior and critical officer safety warnings. Geofencing allows the system to notify officers when they are entering trouble zones such as gang turf or when they are close to other officers.
The saying goes that nobody ever wanted to be a cop so that they could write reports. All that documentation is a bane to both officers and the agencies who employ them. Which is why report dictation software is one of the most-popular officer efficiency tools. Voice recognition software has come a long way since it first hit the market and officers are much more at ease with using it thanks to the widespread acceptance of consumer products like Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Nuance Dragon.
In 2016 Nuance launched a Dragon voice recognition solution for law enforcement. Dragon LE has now been adopted by many agencies and is now available in a cloud version Dragon Professional Anywhere. A mobile app is bundled with the cloud version of Dragon at no additional cost.
Mike Wagner, division chief for the Boulder County (CO) Sheriff’s Office, reports that his agency has saved both time and money by using Dragon. “So far, we’ve used Dragon to dictate over 2.7 million words at an average of 128 words per minute. That’s 15 days spent creating reports that at an average typing speed of 40 words/minute would have taken us more than 47 days, nearly seven full weeks of officer time,” he wrote inPOLICE.
Cameras and other recording devices are everywhere in contemporary America. The result is that audio and video files of incidents are part of almost every investigation. Watching or listening to those recordings can be very time consuming, so officers need ways to speed up the process and help them cut through the hours of extraneous material that do not include evidence.
On the audio side, Phonexia offers Orbis, an AI-powered tool that can find specific speakers using voice biometrics and speech technologies. The company says Orbis can automatically identify a person of interest in audio recordings and follow that person’s speech through the file, enabling rapid evidence collection. In addition to tracking the speech of a person of interest, the software helps investigators understand the relationships between other speakers on the audio and the person of interest.
On the video side, Veritone makes a number of AI-powered video evidence processing tools. The company’s IDentify lets agencies quickly compare their known offenders—and known offender photos from other agencies who permit them to do so—against crime scene video footage. What that means is that investigators don’t have to sit down at the computer and scroll through booking photos trying to match them to the suspect on the video. The AI powered software searches the database for possibles that investigator can check against the video. IDentify is helping investigators identify suspects at crime scenes and close cases.
While much of the discussion on the need for greater officer efficiency focuses on line officers. There is also a shortage of administrators and command staff. Some agencies are sending these long-serving officers back to the street to serve as patrol personnel. In addition, administrators are retiring and taking their skills with them.
Workforce scheduling of both sworn and non-sworn personnel is perhaps the most complicated and time consuming of all administrative duties. Some ranking officers have to spend weeks and even months on this thankless task.
One of the most popular tools for improving productivity of law enforcement administrators is Schedule Express from Informer Systems. Schedule Express is a cloud-based solution developed specifically for public safety workforce management. Some of the basic benefits of Schedule Express include: workflow automation, real-time notifications, and accessibility at any time and from anywhere so that officers are always up to date on their schedules. It also interfaces with the agency’s payroll services provider.
Schedule Express can be used by agencies of all sizes. At POLICE Technology Experience 2020, the Blaine (MN) Police Department talked about the benefits of using the software. Captain Mark Boerboom said the implementation of Schedule Express has saved his 71-sworn agency more than 1,800 hours of administrative labor on a recurring annual basis. He calculated the return on investment value of the labor savings at more than $62,000 annually. More importantly, the software has relieved supervisors of scheduling duties and let them get back to leading officers.
Timely release of body-worn camera and in-vehicle video evidence is one of the demands of police reform advocates. And that presents a major problem for many law enforcement agencies. Raw video of law enforcement operations often contains images of people and things that should not be in public view, including underage suspects and victims, victims of sex crimes, undercover officers, license plates, and personal data such as addresses on computer displays. So it needs to be redacted before it can be released. Redacting one hour of video can take much more than one hour to do. Which means that the labor costs can soar when a law enforcement agency is involved in a controversial use-of-force incident.
Veritone has applied its aiWare artificial intelligence technology to the problem and developed Redact, a device agnostic video redaction solution. “Redact can ingest any video and audio streams that do not have proprietary formats of decoding,” says Jon Gacek, head of government, legal, and compliance at Veritone. Gacek adds that Redact can work with data from many of the most popular brands of police video systems and CCTV systems, and even when the video is in a proprietary format, Redact can sometimes make it work. Speed is another great benefit of Redact, it can process one hour of video in less than an hour, according to Gacek. Customers pay for the service per hour of data redacted, and there is no upfront cost to acquire the software. Redact is pushed out to users in the cloud, so the software is updated continuously. Gacek says Veritone even provides storage space on its CJIS-compliant Microsoft Azure-based cloud at no additional cost to the user.
Even before the explosion of anti-police sentiment in 2020, training was one of the most difficult personnel issues facing law enforcement agencies. Putting officers in the classroom means taking them off of the street. And the officer shortage is making that even more complicated, especially with overtime budgets stressed to breaking so that agencies can’t just pay officers overtime to make sure the community is covered. That’s why more and more agencies are conducting training online. There are three major providers of online law enforcement training solutions: Envisage Technologies, PowerDMS, and Vector Solutions.
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), which 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.
PowerDMS is a very versatile software solution that can help agencies maintain policy documents and update them as needed, disseminate key information to officers in the field, and enhance agency transparency to the public. It can also be used for online training on policy issues and other subjects.
Vector Solutions, formerly known as TargetSolutions, is a one-stop shop for online training. Integrated applications help agencies save time and effort managing training, assessing competencies, and documenting policy acknowledgements. Vector Solutions offers more than 250 hours of training on a wide variety of topics created specifically for law enforcement. The training platform also features a dynamic FTO solution, featuring customizable daily observation reports and forms to assess officers’ competencies, document performance over time and track policies.