Police Chief Magazine
Among the many demands on an officer’s time, two of the largest are records management and report writing. According to experts, the average law enforcement agency can have significant inefficiencies in their records management systems (RMS) and related entities and processes. These inefficiencies arise not only in the work itself but in the missed opportunities that come from underusing the information those reports and records—which now accumulate faster than ever because of video and other technological advancements—contain.
“Even today, we find a ton of agencies that have the technology they need but are still operating in an archaic fashion,” said Ed Claughton, chief executive officer of PRI Management Group, a law enforcement training and consulting firm based in Coral Gables, Florida.1 “There are some departments that have a robust records management system but still print out every single report and file and put each on the wall somewhere. That’s not a good thing because it’s not nearly as efficient as it could be.”
Fortunately, there are a range of vendors providing solutions to help departments streamline their records management. The right application for the right job can help advance investigations and improve training, on top of saving time and effort.
According to statistics provided by officials with IMT, a Des Plaines, Iowa–based identity solutions firm, crime analysts can spend up to 80 percent of their time collecting and collating data from within an RMS. One-quarter of all incidents recorded in a given RMS over a given 12-month period could contain duplicate entries.
“IMT Intel:ID is a fully managed, cost-effective solution for entity resolution, relationship discovery, and alerting,” said Deanna Noble, IMT’s director of solutions and marketing.2 “It enables law enforcement analysts to consolidate and analyze both internal and external data from multiple sources in real time to deliver non-obvious insights and inform decision-making.”
For added functionality, the solution includes a plugin for the IBM i2 Analyst Notebook, allowing for visualization of pertinent data and relationships.
Investigations go to another level with PLX, an all-inclusive RMS from PenLink, a Nebraska-based provider of communications data systems. Officials bill the RMS as a perfect companion for complex investigations that involve live or historical communications data from social media, email, and other sources.
“Investigators can save time and increase accuracy of information gleaned from communication records with the help of PLX,” said Eric Hunzaker, PenLink’s chief revenue officer.3 “The platform features automated ingestion capabilities from hundreds of diverse data sources, including cellphones, social media, email, web browsing, app usage, location pings, tower dumps, and mobile forensic extractions.”
The PLX RMS is designed to take an active role in investigations, with the ability to map cellphone locations, social media activity, text messaging, and IP addresses.
“Furthermore, PLX can now ingest data from GPS tracking devices, as well as audio wires. The ability for an investigator to be able to collect, normalize, and analyze communication data in one system saves investigators time and increases accuracy,” Hunzaker said.
Report writing is a notoriously time-consuming endeavor. Mark43, a public safety software developer based in New York City, is working to change that reality with cloud-native software that allows first responders to, among other things, write accurate reports more quickly.
Mark43 RMS is designed to give law enforcement members the most pleasant report-writing experience possible,” said Matthew Polega, Mark43’s co-founder and head of communications and public policy.5 “We understand that writing reports can be distracting and tedious… It’s an administrative component of the job that is made only more unpleasant with outdated technology that slows the process and siloes vital information. But Mark43 RMS makes it tolerable, fast, and accurate with a cloud-native system that’s designed with simplicity and usability in mind. Users are able to save hours every day.”
Managing records more efficiently is much easier said than done. Although everyone understands its importance, it can sometimes be hard to know where to start. PRI Management Group provides specialized audits for departments in this very position.“
“We conduct performance assessments and audits in the field of records management,” PRI’s Claughton said. “We help agencies proactively identify the risks and eliminate those risks. For example, we make sure that crime stats are accurate or that [agencies] are managing public records correctly and disposing of records the right way.”
PRI has also trained more than 5,000 law enforcement professionals on records management and similar topics each year, according to Claughton.
“We do very comprehensive training on NIBRS reporting for line personnel and supervisors, and we teach NIBRS requirements for executive-level stats,” Claughton said. “Our focus is on getting agencies to operate in a much more modern fashion.”
Solutions for the Modern Environment
Everyone understands the internal and external pressures that exist within law enforcement today. The right RMS solution can not only make an officer’s job a little easier, but directly improve an agency’s culture.
That’s a key idea behind the Acadis Readiness Suite, created by Indiana-based Envisage Technologies, which tracks employee training, compliance, and performance management documents all in one solution. It’s an opportunity to take a wider view of staff performance and tailor culture accordingly, company officials said.
“When you think about performance management tools, usually they’re geared toward documenting bad behavior, like an excessive use of force,” said Ari Vidali, founder and chief executive officer of Envisage, headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana.5 “But performance management done right means documenting the good things, and sharing that throughout the department and the community. But if you don’t capture it, you can’t articulate it.”
The Acadis Readiness Suite—which was developed for agencies of at least 500 officers—contains 22 customizable modules, Vidali said. These can also help agencies better design and execute training activities.
“It’s an end-to-end academy training enterprise resource planning system that fuses everything that an academy has to do, from capacity planning to scheduling to registration to document management,” Vidali said. “Our modules do everything from managing statewide compliance to making sure officers are up to date with continuing education.”
The ubiquity of video in modern law enforcement—and recent increases in public requests for police-generated footage—has made video redaction an increasingly important (and time-consuming) aspect of records management. Virtual Redact, a solution developed by Veritone, a Denver, Colorado, artificial intelligence firm, helps to streamline the process.
In fact, according to company officials, Virtual Redact users can complete the video redaction process up to 10 times faster than those who do it manually.
“Our goal is to automate the process for the officer or the reviewer in order to make it more efficient, so agencies can spend their time and money on their core mission of protecting citizens,” said Jon Gacek, head of Veritone’s government, legal, and compliance business unit.6 “It’s an open system, so we can take essentially any kind of body cam, drone cam, CCTV footage, or another video source and automate the redaction for audio and video… You can go through and look at what was found and either accept or reject the changes. For chain of custody, we provide an auto log that’s detailed down to the pixel level.”
Earlier this year, VIQ Solutions, a Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, provider of digital voice and video capture technology and transcription services, unveiled FirstDraft, which uses artificial intelligence to convert audio files to text and provide quick access to transcripts. But that’s just the beginning.
“Using FirstDraft, transcripts are received in near real-time and at a lower cost than traditional transcription services,” said Krizia Mylonas, VIQ Solutions’ vice president of sales.7 “FirstDraft enables our clients to digitize content historically retained as audio files. Text-based documents created by FirstDraft unlock a vast amount of key information otherwise overlooked within audio and video recordings. In addition to improved accessibility to information, FirstDraft allows for expedited reporting, efficiencies in record management, and the ultimate improvement of case closure rates.”
Given the current law enforcement environment, experts say it’s more important than ever to ensure agencies make the most of each hour and each officer. Given workforce shortages and sometimes tense relationships with the public, managing records more efficiently and effectively has more benefits than might meet the eye.d
1Ed Claughton (chief executive officer, PRI Management Group), phone interview, July 15, 2021.
2Deanna Noble (director of solutions and marketing, IMT), email interview, July 28, 2021.
3Eric Hunzaker (chief revenue officer, PenLink), email interview, July 21, 2021.
4Matthew Polega (cofounder and head of communications and public policy, Mark43), email interview, July 23, 2021.
5Ari Vidali (founder and chief executive officer, Envisage), phone interview, July 14, 2021.
6Jon Gacek (head of government, legal, and compliance business unit, Veritone), phone interview, July 20, 2021.
7Krizia Mylonas (vice president of sales, VIQ Solutions), email interview, July 20, 2021.