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Police software: The ultimate guide

Multiple software applications viewed through a pair of eyeglasses.

The software tools police use and how to get the most out of them for your department

Computers and data collection have become intrinsically linked with modern policing. Today, law enforcement officers are expected to interact with a dizzying array of technology, from body-worn cameras to mobile data terminals (MDTs) and more. Incident reporting, evidence collection, report writing, and other activities are all conducted via computer, and the police software that manages all of that data is an essential part of the law enforcement arsenal.

The problem is: not all software is created equal. To better understand the best features and capabilities of police software, it’s essential to know how each link in the chain functions and what its use cases may be.

This guide breaks down the most common police software, including police dispatch software, police reporting software, and police records management software, and describes how they’re used and what features to look for.

Police incident report software

Police incident reporting software needs to be reliable and efficient, as it will be the police software an officer interacts with the most often. From report writing, evidence collection, taking testimony, and more, police incident reporting software helps officers tackle the brunt of casework.

Not all police reporting software is the same, however. Here are some key features to look for:

  • Comprehensive data capture: Accurately capturing important information is a critical part of using police incident reporting software. If the facts aren’t recorded precisely and clearly, it can have an impact on how the case is tried and whether it results in a conviction. The best police reporting software will streamline data entry by utilizing technologies like document scanners and imagers. It will also allow for the collection of digital evidence, like body-worn camera footage. Software that auto-transcribes video evidence is also a major consideration in regard to data capture. Intuitive user interface: The best interface is one that allows for ease of use and encourages officers to actually use the software. The user interface should be clear, concise, and functional so officers can focus on the immediate task. Predictive text helps streamline report creation, while validating data according to national reporting guidelines, like the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), can be crucial to ensuring reporting compliance.

  • Analytics and reporting tools: Analytics can serve a dual purpose. First, it helps to ensure that officers are using the system appropriately and actually completing their tasks. Police reporting software can review the workload of active officers and report on in-progress cases, completed files, and the average time it takes to complete a report. Analytics can also collate crime data such as dates, times, locations, and types of criminal activity to help predict trends and enhance deployments.

  • Data security: Data misuse or theft is one of the most common ways data is lost in a workplace, and police departments are no different. Data security features like access control, evidence integrity, and encryption can help prevent loss from intrusion or employee misconduct.

To learn more about the features of police incident reporting software, read 10 features to look for in police incident report software.

What is NIBRS?

The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) is a program managed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that collects data on police incidents for the purposes of tracking and analyzing crime in America. As of January 1, 2021, all U.S. law enforcement agencies are required to submit incident data to NIBRS as part of the FBI’s Unified Crime Reporting program (UCR).

NIBRS collects incident data on “Group A” offenses such as:

  • Assault offenses (simple, aggravated, intimidation)

  • Arson

  • Embezzlement

  • Drug/narcotic offenses

  • Larceny

NIBRS also collects data on “Groub B” offenses like:

  • Driving under the influence

  • Passing bad checks

  • Trespassing

Data collected by NIBRS is made available to detectives, officers, and academics and can be used to calculate crime statistics and ascertain trends. This makes it possible to know what offenses are more common and where.

As of now, there is no dictated standard for how to report NIBRS data or what system to use. Departments are free to use a reporting system of their choice so long as the data corresponds to NIBRS guidelines.

For more information on NIBRS and NIBRS reporting, read What is NIBRS?

Computer-aided dispatch software (CAD)

Computer-aided dispatch (CAD) is police software that helps first responders receive dispatch calls, direct resources to appropriate areas and record incidents from the initial 911 call to the resolution of the incident.

With CAD, dispatchers can not only direct calls to specific police vehicles but also:

  • Route vehicles to specific locations

  • Send and receive data about the incident

  • Track the locations of other first responders and vehicles

  • Record and submit data about the incident for the use of detectives, prosecutors, and other agencies

If a CAD system is integrated with other police computer software, officers will be able to more easily create reports, log evidence and submit case files. The CAD software can track an entire incident in real-time, storing all data from the incident so that when the officer returns to their workstation or MDT to file their report, all of the information will be there for them and ready to be submitted to the next person in the chain of custody.

Other benefits of CAD software include:

  • Enhanced communication: Instead of relying on and tying up police radio channels, CAD police software allows officers, supervisors back at the station, and other first responders to communicate about an incident in the field and track deployed resources.

  • Automated record-keeping: CAD software captures data on an incident as it unfolds, beginning with the initial 911 call. When integrated with a records management system like Axon Records, CAD software also streamlines reporting to supervisors, detectives, prosecutors, other agencies, or NIBRS.

  • Improved response time: CAD systems can reduce response times by triaging calls and delivering data about an incident directly to a responding officer’s MDT.

To learn more about how CAD software is helping improve community outcomes, read What is computer aided dispatch software?

Police records management systems (RMS)

Supporting all of this police computer software is a police records management system (RMS). RMS is the storehouse for all data on every incident responded to by a department.

A police RMS allows officers to easily upload videos, incident reports, arrest records, and evidence documentation. The data is then stored digitally and can be shared with other officers, detectives, or other agencies. A police RMS will host the entire lifespan of a case record, allowing for a single entry point for data and supporting multiple reporting methods.

Officers can access a police RMS through their workstation or MDT, and the RMS will effortlessly merge data from multiple sources into one file. That file can then be referenced by detectives or shared with prosecutors.

Axon Records is one example of a police RMS, with dynamic reporting and direct access to digital evidence.

Some important features to look for in a police RMS are:

  • Computer-aided dispatch (CAD) integration: Integrating with CAD software allows for streamlined report generation as the CAD will track all data about an incident in real time. Some RMS software comes with its own CAD built-in, while others are able to integrate with existing CAD solutions.

  • Customizable data fields: The types of data collected from incident to incident can vary wildly. Customizable data fields allow officers to adjust the data input into a case file to fit the narrative of the crime scene. This reduces the chances that an important detail will be missed and an opportunity to solve a case lost.

  • Data security: With increasing amounts of evidence being recorded digitally, data security is essential. Features like access control, document redaction, and file encryption help ensure that sensitive data is not lost or misused.

To learn more about police RMS software, read The complete guide to police records management systems.

Digital evidence management system (DEMS)

Digital evidence is now a major part of police investigations. Today, evidence can come in the form of video files, digital images, digital tags of physical evidence, social media content, PDFs and more. Investigations can include gigabytes of data, which all need to be collected, stored, and managed.

A digital evidence management system (DEMS) can help you streamline processes and gather digital evidence in one place. This makes it easier to upload individual pieces of evidence, find what you need to move the investigation forward and share evidence with people who need access.

When it comes to managing digital evidence, there are several things to consider:

  1. Where to store the vast amounts of digital evidence that has been captured. Agencies have typically stored digital evidence in a scattershot way, with certain files in one place and other files in another. A DEMS brings all of that data into one place where it can be cataloged and easily accessed.

    Axon Evidence is the premiere DEMS for law enforcement, providing a secure, centralized, cloud-based solution for storing, managing, investigating and sharing digital evidence. Axon Evidence keeps all digital evidence in one place and logs all activity involving that evidence to maintain a proper chain of custody. Plus, with unlimited storage plans, Axon Evidence provides the storage space you need for storing every piece of evidence for years to come.

  2. How to upload this evidence into your DEMS. Axon Evidence automatically uploads data generated by an Axon device, be that an Axon Body 4 BWC, Axon Fleet 3 in-vehicle cameras or a TASER energy weapon. There are also multiple efficient ways to upload third-party evidence.

    One example is Axon Community Request. A Community Request allows members of the community to share digital evidence through a secure portal, uploading original files directly into Axon Evidence in a way that prevents them from becoming compressed and losing valuable information.

    A second way Axon addresses this challenge is with Upload XT 2.0. Upload XT 2.0 quickly uploads third-party digital files while maintaining case and folder structures. This allows investigators to securely upload evidence to the cloud with the existing organization structure intact.

  3. How to play files that are not standard formats. While the Axon Body 4 BWC records and stores video files in a standard .mp4 format, other cameras made by other manufacturers may use one of a wide variety of formats, some of which are proprietary. This can make accessing those files a real challenge and delay investigations.

    Axon Evidence solves this problem with 3rd Party Video (3PV) Playback. 3PV automatically recognizes file formats and converts them to .mp4 within Axon Evidence. The conversion is lossless and precise, helping to ensure that you are viewing an accurate video.

There are many other things to consider when it comes to digital evidence management. To learn more about how a DEMS can help streamline your investigative processes, read Digital evidence management: the definitive guide.

Given the demands of modern policing, law enforcement agencies need the best tech stack available to optimize staff time, reduce downtimes, and enhance operations. To learn more about how Axon software can integrate with your department’s needs, contact our team of experts.