Making the Switch: The ROI of Going Mobile in Public Safety – A Four-Part Series

April 1, 2016 Alex Kottoor

Part Two: Enable Real-Time Visibility with SceneDoc

Technology adoption by public safety agencies is not a question of what to do with it, but how to do it. When crime rates drop, that’s always a good thing. But it’s also a double-edged sword, because then the public, and rightly so, says “great, how can you be more efficient and do it with less staff? How can we get more bang for our public buck?” The key for our industry is to deploy personnel more strategically and use time more efficiently, and mobile devices are primed to do just this.

The real-time visibility and efficiency that SceneDoc and the mobile data collection it provides is important, particularly for major cases or incidents. Traditionally, officers get daily instructions on the day’s case priorities, and then all related information for those cases are collected and collated at day’s end. Instead, SceneDoc enables public safety personnel to complete electronic paperwork, create scene drawings, add video or audio files and take text or voice-recorded notes then relay this data in real-time to investigators, incident commanders, and prosecutors.

SceneDoc creates efficiency in what used to be an analog workflow by making it digital – with oversight – for the front-line officers, which allows them to do reporting in a more organized and repeatable way.

When it comes to smaller cases, it’s hard to justify bringing a crime scene photographer or other investigation specialists to the scene. However, when officers in the field are equipped with SceneDoc on their smart phones or tablets, they can capture all the necessary imagery evidence and notes needed, using a device they are already familiar with.

In addition to mobile data collection and retrieval, SceneDoc delivers a huge advantage in that it provides a true, real-time way to update supervisors on “what is happening right now in the field”. With mobile data collection, they can follow or track evidence reports coming in live, a major benefit for small and mid-sized agencies.

Many agencies already use a Record Management Systems (RMS), but these lack a mobile component and are a far cry from the kind of mobile and cloud-based evidence collection tools available to public safety today. To remedy this, agencies need to integrate the data collected from their mobile devices with their RMS, effectively creating an extension of the RMS that the vendor does not need to build and does not need to maintain.

To use a real-world example of the benefits mobile devices can provide public safety, let’s take a look at how Midland Police Service uses SceneDoc to enhance organization as well as visibility throughout the crime and incident reporting process.

Midland is a town of 16,500 in Southwestern Ontario with a municipal Canadian police service. Despite the town’s diminutive stature, Midland Police Service is a classic early adopter for new technology. It is part of the Ontario Police Technology Information Cooperative (OPTIC), which is comprised of almost fifty police services that work together, gain group purchasing efficiencies, share technology research and test-piloting of new applications—along with centralized hosting of common software, hardware, and services.

Interoperability and communication have been the OPTIC mantra over the last thirty years, and this serves as an inspiration for other local agencies who want to adopt more technology.

In late 2014, Midland Police Service decided to run a pilot program of SceneDoc to evaluate the benefits it provides officers. It decided to equip a broad scope of Midland Police officers in different functions – forensic identification officers, crime scene officers, technical collision investigators (car collisions), field investigators, and community service officers with the technology.

Because SceneDoc is cloud-enabled and highly secure, it allowed for near real-time communication and visibility between officers in the field, dispatchers, command centers and other public safety/law enforcement agencies responding to a scene. This resulted in a more efficient evidence collection and reporting process, increased preparedness and cleared the scene faster.

Today, Midland Police Service use SceneDoc to document many cases in court or during the process of investigation. Special Constable Bill Gordon acknowledges that as a whole, the evidence is collected in a more methodical way, and the ease of collection has resulted in more evidence overall.

Additionally, authorized personnel (with permission) can access information in near real-time from any Internet-connected device. Privilege levels within their secure cloud portal can be configured too, as the organization’s specific needs and hierarchies shift.

Says Gordon, “Now each officer can send data back in a timely fashion throughout the day. It makes the whole process simple with everyone on the same page. It changes the process of how you would typically gather evidence, bring it back, dump it and collate it. With SceneDoc, it happens in real-time.”

If agencies view mobile devices as basic photo-evidence-capture tools, they are behind the times. While these tools enhance evidence collection, the streamlined, organized and more visible investigation or reporting process they provide is the true benefit. Mobile devices and the application ecosystem available today have matured into something that is indispensable to field investigators and patrol officers no matter what they are responding to.

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