Writing incident reports has always been a responsibility for police officers, but thankfully, it isn’t as monotonous as it used to be. Modern departments now have access to digital technologies and products that streamline report writing, evidence, testimony collection, and much more. But that doesn’t mean choosing a police incident report platform is straightforward – leaders must always consider how each feature contributes to the data management needs of their particular agency.
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Comprehensive data capture
The primary goal of a police incident report is to document an event from the perspective of victims and witnesses as comprehensively as possible. The completeness of these reports is vital to ensuring judges and juries have an accurate understanding of the chain of events whenever a criminal case goes to trial. If a factual event isn’t included in a police report, lawyers can argue it didn’t happen.
That’s why data capture tools are the most important – and most frequently used – feature of any police report software. What sets the best platforms apart from competing solutions is how they streamline evidence and testimony collection. Some common examples include:
Streamlining routine data collection: Some types of data collection occur on every kind of report, such as date and time stamps. Reporting software can manage these details automatically while supporting hardware like ID scanners to streamline the process of logging everyone’s presence at an incident.
Collecting digital evidence: In many cases, photographs and video footage taken during an incident can confirm witness testimony. Incident report software can include tools for incorporating this evidence into a case file, such as connecting to security camera systems or civilian smartphones.
Auto-transcribing testimony: Written testimony is vital to any incident report but is also the most time-consuming task. Reporting software can help by auto-transcribing witness recordings so officials can analyze a text-based record in any setting.
Intuitive user interface
Police report software that is feature-rich isn’t necessarily easy to use. Its user interface should be clear, concise, and functional so officers can get it done fast and accurately. The best UI features are those which streamline report creation without compromising on data collection, such as:
Highlighting compliance guidelines: Police reports must align with local, state, and federal policies, such as the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). Wherever possible, the software should direct the officer’s attention to associated compliance fields.
Predictive text: Eliminate duplicating work in reports with predictive functionality that recommends text from previously-completed fields.
Police report writing software must be compatible with a broad range of platforms and computer hardware. For example, an officer collecting a smartphone video recording must know they can access the file regardless of the phone’s model or operating system. They may also need to review footage from body cameras, CCTV systems, data servers, or other devices with unique specifications. What’s more, sharing these reports with attorneys and judges using yet another set of software platforms is common! For these reasons, choosing products that support the broadest possible array of data types and hardware configurations is vital.
Report customization options
Even in law enforcement, every organization has slightly different ways of managing police reports and evidence. A comprehensive solution doesn’t have to address all possible use cases, but it does need to feature customization options so departments can tweak report templates and fields. Software should also be flexible enough to adjust how reports are managed throughout an agency.
Workflows: Supervisors often need to adjust the workflows for police reports to ensure document approvals and routing aligns with their organizational structure.
User permissions: In a large agency, access control fields ensure all officers and employees can access only those reports relevant to their daily tasks and cases.
Reminder alerts: When balancing conflicting priorities, supervisors can create reminder alerts to keep reports and associated approval tasks top of mind.
Analytics and reporting tools
Police incident report software doesn’t just streamline report writing – it also makes it easier to analyze officer productivity and criminal activity. Platforms with an analytics dashboard can take information and statistics from aggregated reports to surface incident trends or flag performance bottlenecks within a department.
Criminal activity: Reporting tools that analyze crime statistics provide a high-level overview of current trends, along with offense types, dates, times, and locations.
Performance and productivity: Law enforcement software can review the workload of active officers, accounting for in-progress cases, completed files, and the average time to complete a report.
Use of force: Police analytics can also measure the number of times an officer or department uses force in the line of duty. Some standard metrics include total incidents, incident types and whether they increase or decrease over time.
Mobile technology is more than a convenience when writing police reports – it’s crucial for managing a modern department. Whether accessing body cameras from a smartphone app or operating a mobile data terminal (MDT), mobile functionality makes it possible to leverage department resources in the field anytime.
An MDT, for example, streamlines the completion of multiple law enforcement tasks using a single interface, including submitting reports, communicating with dispatch, accessing criminal records, and charting GPS directions. Modern police operations would not be the same without this technology, so it’s crucial to consider mobile features and integration when choosing police incident report software.
Data security measures
After officers collect all testimony and evidence from a crime scene, they must also secure their findings – the last thing they need is for sensitive information to become compromised through hacking or system errors. Police incident report software can address these concerns in several ways:
Access control: The user permission features that grant case holders access to the relevant files also prevent malicious third parties from reviewing the same data.
Evidence integrity: Errors during file transmission can occasionally corrupt data as it’s being delivered. Evidence integrity features make it possible to validate report data before and after an upload to guarantee that no changes occur in the transmission process.
Encryption: State-of-the-art encryption technology ensures that even if a bad actor or thief obtains digital evidence, they’ll have great difficulty accessing its contents.
Police incident reports are accessed by multiple parties throughout their lifetime, such as supervisors, attorneys, and even other agencies. Outside of compatibility and interoperability concerns, software platforms can also benefit collaboration between these groups in various ways:
Secure document sharing: Law enforcement software platforms make it possible to securely transmit reports and evidence to relevant parties, including law offices, courtrooms, and other departments.
Email integration: Police incident software can automatically notify appropriate parties about the status of reports and cases. For example, users might receive notification emails when given new tasks. Alternatively, a case holder may be notified whenever someone adds a report or file to their case number.
Audit trail functionality
Audit trails are among the most vital features of any police incident report software. They account for every step of incident resolution – from collecting testimony to managing evidence – and make it possible for law enforcement to validate a chain of events. These capabilities minimize disputes over evidence and testimony in a courtroom setting and reflect the integrity of entire departments.
Modern platforms can help by making it possible to filter audit trail data. Instead of reviewing each and every interaction, officers can search for specific dates or individuals to identify potential gaps in a report.
Law enforcement agencies are not static – they change over time due to growth, rising case numbers or changing regulations. That’s why departments should use police incident report software that scales to meet changes as they occur. Agencies with high volumes of officers and cases should be able to operate just as effectively as those with a modest incident rate, even if their data storage and user permissions differ. If nothing else, law enforcement groups shouldn’t need to purchase new software every time they undergo an expansion or operational change.
Unlock the full potential of police incident report software
The right police incident report solution can help law enforcement streamline data collection, maintain compliance and reduce time spent on reporting tasks. That’s why Axon offers Axon Records, a dynamic solution that meets the needs of modern policing. To learn more, get in touch.