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Thursday, March 02, 2006

 

Police reporting; a suggestion of sorts

It being my days off, and being an avid reader of Police blogs, I see a common thread of complaint which no one seems to be doing anything serious about. Reports and evidence gathering. Every Police blog I read has a go, albeit laterally, about the amount of report writing and form filling in the average arresting officer has to do. This detracts from the amount of time that an officer can spend (I suppose this is so) doing what they became a Police Officer in the first place for. Will any Copper (Or anyone else) who reads my often scurrilous output have a sideways think about the following and tell me what merits such a scheme that I am about to overview might have?

Here goes; On patrol, once an offence has been detected and suspect arrested (Or not), the arresting officer has to fill out a paper incident report form. Once a suspect has been delivered to the custody suite for processing, the Custody Officer has to take suspect details (Description, fingerprints, DNA swab - whatever) and fill out a paper form with the prisoner details on. Just these two stages can generate a snowstorm of paper and be responsible for the deaths of many innocent trees. This is before the CPS gets involved. So why not cut down (or maybe out altogether) the paper?

In another life, I have had some little experience of mobile computing and what it is capable of. Notwithstanding; I currently use a hand held computer upon which I take down vehicle details and book them for infractions of the local parking laws. I can book a vehicle every ninety seconds if opportunity presents itself. That’s with at least four photographs per vehicle and a further fifteen points of evidence / observation. Now if a humble Parking Enforcer like me can do this after just over two years practice, think what a properly trained Police Officer could do with the right mobile computing solution. All that needs to be done is some serious critical path thinking about what a Police Officer needs in order to do their job and nail the malefactors like they are paid to. Improve the quality of evidence. Take verbatim statements from witnesses on the spot while memory is still fresh. Take photographs (Or short wmv movie files) of an RTA / crime scene (no chasing CCTV because the cameras weren’t pointed in the right direction / not correctly sited), then upload the whole file via GPRS to the main system while the suspect / casualty is still in transit. Custody sergeant adds to the file by adding a scanned palm print; idiot goes down the cells in double jig time. No duplication, no bits of paper to get lost, it all goes in the same file which can be linked / appended if necessary to an existing criminal / arrest record.

Stuff like the ‘James Bond Pen’ currently under evaluation in Dorset is useful, but still doesn’t form a part of a direct and streamlined ‘Offence to Court hearing’ law enforcement solution (And the Officers have to keep a check on handwritten notes). For a more streamlined solution, the hardware is currently available. Of course the software needs to be written, but it is do-able and not, as we used to say in my circles, 'rocket science'.

Of course there would be the legalities to perfect. What the courts would require as sufficient evidence for a conviction might be a legal moot point, but with photographs, sound recordings and a trained Police Officers observations, it might be worth a punt if it means more bullet-proof evidence collection and (Hopefully) less paper replication.

These are just my initial thoughts you understand (The rest can be had for a large Consultants fee). Of course it might just prove a far better law enforcement investment than chucking all that public money at a waste of money like, for example; ID cards. Anyone interested?

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Exasperated expatriate expostulations all the way from British Columbia, Canada. As if anyone really cared. Oh, I also watch Icelandic Volcanoes and seismic activity. Don't ask me why.

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