Everything you need to know about how police records management systems work and why they’re revolutionizing policing
The job of policing is increasingly becoming intertwined with data management. Body cameras, incident reports, subject records, and more are generated in real-time as police officers go about their daily activities. Those records have to be stored and, perhaps more importantly, organized so that they can be processed, retrieved, and shared in a way that makes sense, is economical, and above all, helps reduce crime.
Police records management systems, or police RMS, aim to solve the problem of how to store and manage all of that data. Police RMS ingest data, store it, organize it, and allow for retrieval when needed, helping ease the pain of keeping track of all that police departments do.
There are many options for selecting a police RMS, but finding the right solution for you doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some key factors to consider when looking at police records management software.
What is a police RMS?
A police RMS is a software solution for managing police records that allows law enforcement personnel to enter and retrieve data.
Every police interaction generates data – from a traffic stop to a suspect interview. In the past, a police officer relied on a trusty notepad and pen. Today, police utilize devices such as police body-worn cameras, mobile data terminals, interview room cameras, and more. These devices are creating mountains of data, and because most of it is created digitally, the solution for managing it must also be digital.
A police RMS creates an interface for officers to easily upload their videos, incident reports, arrest records, and evidence documentation. This data is then stored digitally and can be shared among workstations or even across jurisdictions. Advanced police RMS can also allow officers to share data with prosecutors and more for better case management and, often, a higher conviction rate.
A police RMS will host the entire lifespan of police records, from initial data creation to the completion of a case file. Incident reports might be input through a mobile data terminal, arrest records through a department workstation and evidence in yet another station, but the RMS will effortlessly merge these different data sources into one file, able to be referenced by detectives or prosecutors.
An effective police RMS will allow for a single entry point for relevant data while supporting multiple reporting methods. This accommodates the various needs of a law enforcement agency and the different types of reports generated by officers on patrol.
Important features of a police RMS
Selecting the police RMS that is the right fit for your department will depend on how you intend to use it, what features most appeal to you, and, at the end of the day, how easy it is to use. Here are a few useful features to look for.
The interface of a police RMS can make the difference between it being used effectively or not being used at all. Any system is only useful if people actually use it, and a good interface makes using a police case management software solution easier.
The interface is the look and feel of the program. How you input data, where, and how to navigate between the program’s different functions. A police RMS with a single interface across multiple functions will make inputting and retrieving data simpler and faster. A customizable interface, on the other hand, allows for greater complexity. Ultimately, the best interface will be the one that encourages rapid adoption of the system.
Computer-aided dispatch (CAD) integration
Computer-aided dispatch is to 21st-century policing what the radio was to the 20th. CAD allows dispatchers and officers to communicate quickly, effectively, and clearly, sharing relevant data about incidents and keeping track of officer locations in the field.
Some police RMS come with their own CAD solutions or are able to integrate with an existing CAD program if you’re already using one. Being able to access CAD through a police RMS is essential, as it streamlines officer operations during time-sensitive incidents.
Customizable data fields
As many officers can attest, no two incidents are the same, and the type of data collected from incident to incident can vary wildly. Data fields are where officers input that data, but some software solutions have rigid, or pre-defined data fields, meaning an officer will have to force their data fit into a pre-determined box. A police RMS with customizable data fields allows for data collection in unexpected circumstances, making it more likely relevant data will be collected and preventing missed opportunities for policing.
Data theft and misuse are among the most common security lapses in the modern workplace, and a police department is no exception. An effective police RMS with robust security in place will help safeguard your data from employee misconduct, malicious external attacks, or natural disasters.
Document redaction allows data to be edited as it is ingested, ensuring sensitive information is kept private. This is especially useful regarding incidents involving minors. A police RMS can be programmed to be aware of the age of majority in a given jurisdiction and automatically redact or keep private details of incidents involving minors to comply with local and state regulations.
File encryption makes it harder for intruders to make off with useful data. And access control keeps people who don’t belong in your system out of it. All of these features help ensure the integrity of police data.
Police RMS best practices
Whichever police RMS you choose, there are several best practices to keep in mind.
Single entry: An effective police RMS will allow for data to be entered once and then accessed by multiple modules across the system. This streamlines operations, saves time, and focuses officer efforts.
Standardized code tables: Using standardized law enforcement code tables is essential to maintaining the effectiveness and relevance of police data as files are shared across jurisdictions and amongst agencies. A police RMS must also implement the standards of the FBI’s Unified Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) to ensure accurate data is shared with national agencies.
Spellcheck and formatting: This is especially valuable in narrative entry fields. This saves time in revising data records after the fact and simply makes life easier.
Validation on data entry: A good police RMS will check for logic and other errors when an officer is inputting data to ensure that data is valid across modules to ensure that data isn’t entered into the wrong fields, or that street names or other details conform to existing data already in the system.
Single workstation access: Accessing multiple police RMS modules from a single workstation or mobile data terminal provides flexibility and saves time, allowing officers to do more work in one sitting.
Automatic data submission: Agencies can define which external entities will automatically receive case data from an RMS, be that prosecutor’s offices or other law enforcement agencies.
Technology continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, and police records management systems are no exception. Cloud computing has revolutionized how data is stored and shared, and police RMS software can take advantage of this trend. Cloud storage can simplify the implementation of security and privacy measures and reduce the demand for back-end management of data, ultimately reducing costs.
Cloud computing can also allow for integration with mobile devices, greatly expanding data input options and the availability of records to officers in the field.
Analytics is also a growing trend in police case management software implementations. A police RMS with analytics built-in will allow for careful analysis of data to predict trends. This can be invaluable in assessing how officers spend their time, how and for what types of incidents they are trained, and what areas may need more careful policing. Solutions like Axon Records, which integrate directly with data reporting software, empower agencies to leverage their data to increase overall effectiveness.
For more information about how a police RMS can serve your needs, visit the Axon Records product page or contact Axon.