Quality Police Reports: How to Improve Your Agency’s Reporting
Law enforcement officers spend a significant amount of time writing reports in their daily roles. In fact, some sources, like the Sacramento State Police Department Report Writing Manual, estimate that nearly half of a police officer’s work involves writing
Reports are vital for many reasons. To name a few, reports serve as a crucial tool for documenting evidence, witness statements, and the actions taken by officers. These are important things to document so that they can provide a reliable record of events to be used in court proceedings, insurance claims, and various administrative processes.
Also, police reports are essential for statistical analysis, which enables law enforcement agencies to identify trends, allocate resources effectively, and improve their strategies to enhance public safety.
All of this considered, how can law enforcement officers prioritize writing quality reports, all while juggling heavy workloads and managing time constraints?
In this blog, we’ll examine how quality reporting can ultimately save officers time in the long run. Additionally, we’ll consider how quality reporting positively impacts trial preparation and case outcomes. Lastly, we’ll explore how technology can help officers with the mission to write better reports in less time.
The Impact of Quality Police Reports
Quality police reports can impact cases throughout the entire process of the criminal justice system. The details that law enforcement officers include in their reports shape the narrative that prosecutors can use to build cases. Then, this information is used throughout hearings and impacts sentencing.
While it may seem obvious, the attention to detail in a report can make a huge difference across the criminal justice system. But this attention to detail can also positively impact an officer’s schedule, too.
Read more below on how.
Fewer Courtroom Appearances, Better Outcomes.
A well-written report can keep an officer from having to testify in court as often. If an officer’s crime report can clearly state all necessary elements, prosecutors, victims, and officers alike will benefit.
In an online forum, former police officer of 10 years and lawyer Peri Collins explains that “your prosecutors will thank you and respect you a lot more.”
Also, quality reports ensure that when officers do have to testify in court, that they are well-equipped. Collins explained in an anecdote that high-quality reports often convinced defense attorneys that “we would make formidable witnesses in court as well.” By being strong witnesses, officers can spend less time sitting in the courthouse and more time in the field.
Finally, it’s essential for officers to create quality reports in case of circumstances in which cases end up being delayed by months, or even years. In these instances, it’s easy for details to get lost and for officers to forget details. Quality reports protect and document vital information that can greatly impact a case’s outcome down the line.
All in all, the better a report is, the less an officer will have to appear in court.
How Technology Can Make Quality Reporting Easier
Considering the challenges that many agencies are facing, such as substantial understaffing and low retention rates, how can agencies support their officers on the quest to write higher quality reports?
Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel or completely overhaul reporting procedures, agencies can simply re-consider how to best use tools in their everyday access. In this instance, technology can fuel quality report-writing, save officers time, and centralize information securely.
Every agency relies on some sort of records management system (RMS). Many of these, though, are outdated, legacy models that are almost just as tedious and frustrating as pen-and-paper methods.
Cloud-based RMS solutions have the potential to dramatically improve reporting processes through tools such as single-input data entry, advanced search functionalities, and more.
Keep reading to learn more about some of these potential features, and how your agency can afford a future-proof, robust RMS through processes like grant funding.
The Possibility of Future-Proof RMS Solutions
Software like CivicRMS can enable officers to access their RMS information anytime, anywhere, on a CJIS-secure, cloud-based network. This effectively frees officers from relying on an agency’s physical office or squad cars. Instead, officers can access information on-the-go, or in the courtroom, too.
Additionally, adaptable RMS platforms can promote data integrity through single-entry data input. This tool immediately duplicates necessary information across the system as necessary in linked cases and forms. By duplicating information, the system can help prevent human error, while also saving officers time from repeated manual entry.
Advanced search functionality allows officers to search through thousands of files in an instant. Instead of spending valuable time digging through cases, documents, and parties, officers can use detailed search filters to quickly sort through to the information they need.
Future-proof RMS solutions also offer the capability for secure API (application programming interface) integrations. Instead of siloing data, secure API technology can allow agencies to integrate their data from across added software tools—such as evidence, jail, and CAD platforms—directly into their RMS dashboard. This effectively saves time for officers, since officers can access all the information and tools they need without switching platforms.
Additionally, secure API integration capabilities can allow an agency to harness the power to share data with neighboring agencies, prosecution offices, and court systems. By selecting a platform that can share data across the full spectrum of the criminal justice system, officers can equip their agency with the ability to share data with other agencies as they also update their technology.
As a whole, these RMS features can support the quality of police reports by promoting data integrity, improving access to information, creating opportunity for data-sharing, and integrating with other relevant law enforcement technologies.
How to Fund Technology Purchases
All of this considered, how can agencies afford RMS solutions that offer these tools?
This is where grant funding can come into play.
Different organizations across the United States offer state-specific grant funding opportunities that can fund vital technology for law enforcement agencies, no matter the agency’s size.
In Saranac Lake, New York, for example, Police Chief Darin Perrotte located grant funding to purchase his agency’s RMS.
Instead of relying on existing (and often tight) budgets, agencies can look to opportunities like grant funding, purchasing cooperatives, and other avenues to make their purchase more affordable. In this way, agencies can prioritize spending, while also ensuring that their agency can leverage the technology it needs to improve reporting, and effectively, improve case proceedings across the entire criminal justice system.
Quality police reports can dramatically improve proceedings across the criminal justice system.
For law enforcement officers, quality reports can help officers spend less time in the courtroom and more time out in the field. Prosecuting attorneys can rest assured knowing officers have captured all necessary information a case will require. Defense attorneys will be forced to confront a detailed, well-documented case.
Features within future-proof RMS solutions can help law enforcement officials improve their reports through increased accuracy and ease-of-use. RMS solutions like CivicRMS can save officers the frustrations and workarounds of legacy systems, while also increasing officers’ access to vital information while out in the field through a secure, cloud-based network.
To learn more about how to effectively purchase an RMS, check out our free downloadable eGuide.
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