4 ways speech recognition technology improves police efficiency, safety

Paperwork is crucial, but there’s a reason they call it a necessary evil – it takes too much time and can keep us away from one of our most important tasks


By Ed Davis, Nuance Communications

My career in law enforcement spans many ranks and several decades, and while there have been many changes as the result of advances in police technology, there are aspects of the job that remain consistent.

I think I speak for law enforcement professionals across the U.S. when I say that we would rather be catching criminals than doing the less glamorous side of our work that they don’t show on “Law and Order” – creating countless incident reports when working a case. Police paperwork is crucial, but there’s a reason they call it a necessary evil. It takes too much time and can keep us away from one of our most important tasks – protecting the citizens we serve.

According to a national survey of police departments, almost 40% of survey respondents said they can spend 3-4 hours each day on incident reporting and other documentation tasks. That translates to a quarter of the day spent on paperwork alone, rather than policing and protecting our communities.

Tools like speech recognition technology allow officers to dictate documents rather than manually typing them by hand, providing a better way to tackle the heavy documentation demands that plague officers nationwide.

Several benefits speech recognition technologies bring to policing include:

1. Increases in community presence

Completing incident reports through voice dictation is drastically shorter than the time it would take an officer to create paperwork manually. Technology available today can be up to 99% accurate so officers don’t have to sacrifice precision in order to gain back their time. Officers spending less time at their desks buried in reporting means more time spent being visible in the community.

With community visibility at the crux of modern-day policing, it’s not surprising that in addition to better training and equipment for their officers, departments are embracing solutions that can allow officers to be more visible in the community.

2. Enhanced transparency

Transparency in policing is why reporting accuracy is so crucial to what we do – everything we say and do can make a difference. Because officers are dictating in the moment, everything is fresh in their minds and more detailed and reliable than if that same information had to be pulled from memory hours later.

Advanced speech technology is able to learn language unique to the trade, so an officer can speak freely and be confident in the system’s ability to pick up on and understand traditional police jargon. The accuracy of today’s speech technology holds an officer accountable in his or her reporting, which further builds police transparency and trust.

3. Vehicle ergonomics

Next generation police vehicles are delivering new designs focused on safety, technology, performance and handling improvements. Safety, ergonomics and efficiency should always be taken into account, especially when it comes to adopting new technology in a small space. Police cars are changing and problems associated with hand, wrist and back pain from typing can be solved with voice dictation.

4. Officer safety

The reliance on keyboard-driven, in-car systems, such as the MDT, has impacted officer safety. While cramped conditions in patrol cars can cause minor discomfort using the MDT, or worse – lower back pain – the “heads-down” approach is the major concern. With dictation officers can use their voice and stay “heads-up” while conducting common tasks like license plate lookups, enabling them to stay more alert, present and aware of their surroundings.

Many government law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the military, have already selected speech recognition technology to keep pace with ever-increasing reporting loads. Speech recognition can be used to streamline reporting processes by allowing officers to dictate reports into the department’s Record Management System (RMS) from a desktop computer at the station, an in-car system (such as a mobile data terminal or MDT), or even a mobile device.

Adopting solutions like speech recognition technology to streamline incident reporting will help officers prioritize toward higher engagement tasks, like spending more time on patrol and keeping communities safe.


About the Author
Ed Davis has been in law enforcement for more than 35 years and is a security consultant to Nuance Communications. He served as the 40th Police Commissioner of the city of Boston from December 2006 until October 2013. Prior to that, Davis was the superintendent of the Lowell Police Department, a position he held for 12 years and one he rose to after starting out as a patrol officer in one.

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