Magazine Article | February 1, 2003

Cutting Paper Keeps Cops On The Streets

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

A comprehensive content management system will increase the amount of time West Des Moines (IA) police officers are on the streets and keep them better informed about what to expect when they get there.

Integrated Solutions, February 2003

From writing tickets to filing reports, a significant part of most police officers' jobs involves paperwork. These documents are crucial to the jobs of supervisors, the court system, and other interested parties. The West Des Moines (IA) Police Department realized it required a great deal of labor to create reports and manually enter data into its specialized records management system. In addition, each document was being copied and manually sent to numerous people. Microfilm archives were maintained, and the hardware was becoming outdated and difficult to operate. In short, they needed police officers to spend less time behind desks and more time behind the wheels of patrol cars.

Like many organizations, the department knew they had a need for document imaging, but they didn't necessarily have the budget or the in-house expertise. The department applied for and received a federal COPS MORE (Community Oriented Policing Services Making Officer Redeployment Effective) grant. "We assembled a group of end users from throughout the department and came up with 15 requirements for an acceptable document management system," says Lt. Cam Coppess of the department's support services division. These requirements included browser-based access, the ability to view a wide array of file formats, and flexible retrieval and viewing options. "With the help of a consultant, we put together an RFP [request for proposal] and had about half a dozen vendors come in to educate us about EDMSs [electronic document management systems]."

With assistance from systems integrator IMAGETek (Des Moines, IA), the police department purchased a document management system centered around the Xtender product line from LEGATO Systems, Inc. CIRs (criminal incident reports), booking reports, and other documents can be scanned using a Bell & Howell FB-series scanner or a Fujitsu fi-4120C. Images are captured using eCapture software from Captovation Inc. The data is then managed by LEGATO's ApplicationXtender (AX) software, which captures, organizes and provides access to data of various formats. Indexing information is entered manually, but retrieval is also aided by the optional full-text OCR (optical character recognition) module of AX. The police department also purchased 25 licenses for LEGATO's WebXtender, which provides authorized users with access to the data repository via the Web. The solution also uses DiskXtender to create a virtual data pool, making it appear to end users as if data from multiple physical locations is in a single repository.

Increase Imaging Efficiency With Workflow
Following the October 2002 installation of AX, the police department began scanning about four years' worth of existing files as officers were trained on the new system. Since the system was extended to incoming records in January 2003, the officer in charge completes the indexing, routes the reports to the appropriate divisions (e.g. juvenile or criminal), and assigns priorities. IMAGETek provided consultation and services to create an automated workflow that meets the department's requirements. As a result, officers spend less time managing paperwork.

Scanning documents not only simplifies the processing of data, but it also allows documents to be centralized and cross-referenced, making a search for information quicker and more thorough. "The advantage is that the documentation is readily available without multiple duplication," says Coppess. "Because of labor and hardware costs and maintenance, copying can get pretty expensive. We will also be providing better access to citizens, detectives, and crime analysts. The goal is that the centralized repository will encourage officers to begin using other information and solve more crimes." For example, an officer files a field interrogation report about a conversation with an individual who may not have been committing any crime. When a burglary happens in that vicinity and that person is suspected, he/she can be placed near the scene.

When the system goes into full production later this year, it will be extended to authorized city workers as well. By sharing information between the city and the police department, officials will be better able to monitor public safety. For example, if an incident occurs at a certain home, the police might be able to access information about the property based on building permits.

Take Your Content On The Road
The goal is not just to create a repository for officer reports, but also to pull together a number of systems for a truly comprehensive solution. IMAGETek plans to integrate AX with CRIMES, a specialized law enforcement records management solution from HTE, Inc., which the department has been using since 1998. CRIMES resides on an AS/400, and IMAGETek will image-enable the application, allowing a user to click a hyperlink to supporting documents.

By June 2003, Coppess would like the system be interfaced with TraCS (Traffic and Criminal Software), a solution developed by the Iowa Department of Transportation to share data about criminal activity. Designed for use with mobile computers, TraCS supports the transmission of electronic citations that can be sent to the court system.

Another project underway is crime mapping. Integration with an Arc GIS (geographic information system) from ERSI will allow officers to pinpoint where crimes occurred in their neighborhoods. "We want to link that GIS back to the imaging system so when an office queries an incident, he or she gets an incident number and a hyperlink into the records management system," says Coppess. "At some point, this will move into a CAP [crime analysis program] which will display where suspects live or have been spotted in relation to various crime scenes."

IMAGETek is also working on integrating digital photography into the system. Snapshots can be pulled from footage taken with a Sony digital video recorder. Adding these digital mug shots to the file will allow for capture of identifying features such as tattoos or scars as well as mannerisms. Partnering with IT/X (Cedar Rapids, IA), which has developed a virtual lineup software application, IMAGETek plans to allow officers to pull together groups of possible suspects based on predetermined criteria. These images are stored on optical WORM (write once, read many) to assure they cannot be tampered with.

While it is too early to calculate exactly how much more time officers will be on the streets, the $119,000 from the COPS MORE grant will go far to make officers work smarter. That's a small price to pay for increased public safety.