Police officers should be crime fighters not form fillers. The desire to reduce the paperwork is shared by serving officers, David Cameron and was stated in the Home Office's Policing in the 21st Century White Paper.
Like many public services, our police forces are under immense pressure to continually improve the quality and efficiency of their work while simultaneously reducing costs. To meet this huge demand we need to allow our police to spend less time on certain tasks and concentrate on those that make the most difference, but this isn't easy. Real innovation is required if we're going to make an impact.
Recently, think tank Reform hosted an event, "The Future of Technology in Policing," during which a focus was the role voice and speech recognition technology could play in implementing change to benefit front line officers. The most recognisable example of this technology for consumers is Siri - the iPhone's personal assistant which allows for natural conversational interaction with the device, that not only understands what is being said, but who is saying it, wherever the user might be. This capability can be made even more impactful when applied in a professional environment, where its reforming potential is tremendous. If this technology were to be applied to police operations, there would be countless opportunities for transformation.
It would enable police officers to substantially reduce the amount of time they spend typing, refocusing their effort on combating crime or back to tasks more closely associated with the reasons why many vocational officers joined the force in the first place. For example, enabling officers to speak their reports into their mobile device, where the information could be automatically sent to the station's servers and archived according to the force's strict procedures.
Trials have been underway by UK Police Forces of a Stop and Search solution using speech technology. It enabled an officer to dictate the contents of the form directly, via their Airwave device. Ordinarily the process to type the Stop and Search form takes between ten to twelve minutes each, or about five to six minutes via a smart device such as a Blackberry. This was reduced to about one minute in the trial, removing the need for any paper and typing, enabling the officer to maintain eye contact with the citizen throughout the process, and the information to be made available at HQ without unnecessary delay.
Further, to aid investigations and reduce costs, a speech enabled service could be used to accurately and securely, transcribe suspect interviews; returning the documentation much faster than existing methods. Currently the value delivered for the hundreds of millions of pounds the UK police spends on this element of service delivery could be significantly improved.
Speech technology could also be used to automate some calls to deliver a 24/7 self-service offering to the public. It could be used to automate non-emergency, non-police related calls, such as those reporting abandoned vehicles, to direct the caller to the right Local Authority for assistance.
Courageous and dedicated professional people join the police force to make a difference to their community. The current use of technology in operations, such as keyboards and word processing, combined with the necessary bureaucracy, has incrementally led to a demoralising and wasteful experience for the officer and tax payer. Modern technology can, and arguably must be brought to the front line to assist; perhaps that time is now.