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Paperless Incident Reporting with Minimum Pain and Maximum Benefit

Author: Evelyn J. Graham, President, Presynct Technologies, Inc.

Paperless incident reporting is the goal of just about every law enforcement agency, but it has primarily been achieved only by the larger law enforcement agencies.  How can a smaller agency with a limited budget and little or no technology support staff go paperless?

Just as importantly, why should an agency, especially the smaller agency, go paperless?

Paperless incident reporting offers measurable (dollar) savings in staff time, office supplies, and postage.  Paperless gets the information where it needs to be in the shortest amount of time.  Paperless protects privacy when it needs to be preserved.  Paperless enables data sharing and facilitates individual agency control over what is shared and with whom.

So how does the smaller agency go paperless with minimum pain and maximum benefit?  The quickest and least expensive way to go paperless is with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).  SaaS is a concept that is as old as your telephone and electric services where users subscribe to on-demand dial-tone and electricity and pay a monthly fee for the service.  Customers don’t own the dial tone or the power grid, and they don’t have to repair it when the service goes down.  Your cell phone, 2-way radio, Blackberry, and Internet access are all software-as-a-service.  If your dispatch is a shared CAD, your agency operations already use SaaS.

Let’s look at the experience of the Dos Palos Police Department which is on the leading-edge in law enforcement with the use of SaaS.  The Department performs general law enforcement duties for the City of Dos Palos, CA, which has a population of +/- 5,000 in western Merced County.  There are 15 sworn officers in the Department.  There is an off-site RMS and an outside contract for CAD services from a regional provider. 

Chief Barry Mann had been looking at purchasing an RMS/CAD of their own, but prices were well over their budget.  Then, without warning, the Department’s internal PC-based incident report writing system suddenly crashed.  There was no electronic archive or storage of the data anywhere, and all of Dos Palos’ incident data was lost when the system crashed.  Obviously, quick action was called for.

In their search for a system to replace the software that crashed, Dos Palos defined their objective as quickly implementing a state-of-the-art digital incident reporting application that improves efficiency in incident report writing, while serving as a reliable offsite storage system for record archiving.  The goals were (1) software that is accessible wherever the Internet is reachable, including laptops in police vehicles, PC’s in the office, and mobile devices; (2) a system that can be implemented quickly because the existing system crashed completely and was no longer usable; (3) a reliable incident reporting system that minimizes the operational expense and IT support associated with hosting and maintaining a system in-house; and (4) a system that is affordable within the existing budget.

Subscribing to Presynct_SaaS paperless incident reporting was not a new concept for Dos Palos Police Department.  The off-site RMS and the CAD service contracts were, in fact, software-as-a-service, so Dos Palos was already familiar with the significant benefits of SaaS.  Chief Mann decided it was a better use of their limited budget resources to hire another patrol officer to support the community than hire IT staff to support a system.  The Presynct_SaaS subscription gave Dos Palos the same functionality that agencies received when purchasing Presynct for on-site implementation.

Dos Palos Police Department has been using SaaS paperless incident reporting since August 2007.  According to Chief Mann, “We needed a comprehensive web-based system that can transfer incident data to other agencies, and dollar for dollar Presynct_SaaS was the best choice.  With Presynct, we have a record of all reportable incidents from petty theft to homicide, and by backing it up locally and saving it remotely, our files are safe in case of catastrophe.” Chief Mann says Presynct_SaaS incident reporting benefits his Department in many ways, not the least of which are having a professional image in the community and among its peers, reduced operating costs, a disaster recovery solution, and quick implementation.  With Presynct_SaaS, the Department’s native forms are built right into the software to ensure minimal behavior change and maximum user adoption.
With software-as-a-service, there is nothing to install and no server hardware to maintain or replace.  If there’s a problem, it’s the SaaS vendor’s problem, not yours.  Upgrades are taken care of automatically.  Backups are done automatically by the SaaS provider.  Deployment is simple, and Presynct_SaaS scales easily to match your organization’s growth pattern. 

Software-as-a-Service truly is the smaller agency’s technology path to going paperless with minimum pain and maximum benefit.  The benefits of SaaS to your organization include fixed operational cost, rapid deployment, optimal resource utilization, productivity improvements, streamlined operations, and a hedge against obsolescence, upgrades, maintenance, and support. 

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