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Every Second Counts: Voice Recognition Technology for Law Enforcement Practices

Author: Chief Dennis Poole, Chatham-Kent Police Service

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content,

Date: 2014-07-03
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Modern policing, like many other industries, requires a significant amount of administrative work and assistance. Indeed, these aspects of the service process necessitate extended and comprehensive amounts of time from both officers and data entry personnel.  With the expanse of responsibilities and daily tasks at hand, it becomes imperative to consolidate and save time when possible. Technology is quickly becoming increasingly integrated into day-to-day operations, and is proving to be an effective resource for completing these time-consuming tasks of the trade.

One technology that is growing in popularity in mainstream culture is voice recognition. Often, the technology is utilized through the use of consumer products, like phones and tablets. However, it is quickly becoming a widespread solution across multiple industries, including law enforcement, in which it is utilized to aid in officers’ reporting and report-filing processes.

The Chatham-Kent Police Service in Ontario, Canada, has already adopted voice recognition technology into its daily practices, and is seeing steady results.


The Problem

The Chatham-Kent Police Service serves a population of approximately 100,000 citizens. Recently, CKPS discovered that it was running an inefficient report-submission process, which resulted in a significant backlog of reports, delays in the overall progression of cases, and persistent problems with the quality of the reports being filed.

At that point, it was clear that CKPS needed to make changes to its strategy for report submissions. For example, an officer would dictate a report into the CKPS server system, which would then send the audio file to a Civilian Data Entry steno, who would in turn type out each report by hand, word-for-word, until it was complete.

This process of transcription was clearly time-consuming, with some reports taking more than 12 hours to file. It resulted in not only a substantial backlog of cases, but in issues with the quality and accuracy of the reports as well, not to mention occupational injury issues for the transcribers. The officers were being asked to provide clarity on specifics from cases that were originally opened several weeks prior, and were thus struggling to recall the information that was required.


The Resolution

The crux of the Chatham-Kent Police Service’s problematic report-submission process was inadequate and insufficient use of technology. The transition of the reports from the frontline officers to the Civilian Data Entry members centered on the dictation into the server system, resulting in a closer investigation into finding a more efficient and effective solution. The Service’s IT department led an initiative to find an operative and affordable technology to aid in the process.

In 2010, the Service first piloted voice recognition technology from Nuance Communications, embedding it into its servers for audio transcription. Shortly after, the partnership with Nuance expanded when CKPS experimented with MPA Dictation – an Enterprise dictation product for mobile devices that utilizes Nuance’s voice recognition technology. The pilot program proved successful and, shortly after, CKPS adopted the technology into the report-submission process.

With the expansion of this new partnership, the Police Service began utilizing MPA Dictation and Voice Report – a Nuance-powered Enterprise digital workflow solution for mobile field services. The Service paired MPA Dictation and Voice Report to assist officers in taking greater ownership of their reports and significantly decrease the time the Civilian Data Entry members would need to file them successfully. Not only did the Chatham-Kent Police Service install the improved technology on its mobile smartphones, it also updated the infrastructure of its central server to accommodate the change.

Using the MPA Dictation technology, officers can now dictate their reports and a case occurrence number. Voice Report then takes the audio file, transcribes it, and sends a text transcript back to the officer’s mobile device. Following delivery, the officer can edit the text of the report and make any necessary corrections before sending it on to the Civilian Data Entry team.

Before long, more than 120 of CKPS’ 170 officers were using MPA Dictation and Voice Report. It quickly became apparent through the early results that there was an immediate improvement in the report-submission process.


The Outcome

Through the incorporation of MPA Dictation and Voice Report, frontline officers are afforded greater flexibility and convenience when it is time to submit a report. By being able to use their Dragon-enabled mobile devices, frontline officers can file their reports while out in the field, advance cases along and rapidly respond to other incoming calls. As a result, officers are better equipped to serve and protect the community.

"With the ability to file and edit occurrence reports from wherever I need to, I can spend more time focusing on the issues that matter to the people in the neighborhoods I patrol,” said Constable Mark Vandergriendt.

Furthermore, the Chatham-Kent Police Service noted an increase in the quality of the reports being submitted. Instead of waiting weeks to review a case and making any edits to a report, frontline officers used Voice Report to review and note changes to their reports the same day that they submitted them. The increased detail and meticulousness displayed in the reports from frontline officers was noticed and appreciated from not only within the Department, but also by the Court system once they were received. The Crown Attorney responsible for reviewing the Chatham-Kent Police Service’s reports had previously had to seek clarification on case details fairly often. However, since the integration of voice technology, the requests for interpretations on each report have been reduced to almost zero.

“Counsel wants professional, detailed, clean reports to present to a Court,” said Staff Sergeant Barry Childs. “We have realized quicker resolutions of case files, saving us a tremendous amount of time compared to how we used to do our reports.”

The implementation of voice technology essentially revolutionized the report filing process for the Civilian Data Entry members. Instead of keying in every entry based on an audio file, they have the ability to simply copy and paste the text report from the frontline officers into the Records Management System. The average two-page report used to take more than 10 minutes to type out and file into the system, but with Dragon it now takes less than two minutes to copy and paste the submitted case reports, resulting in an 85 percent reduction in time spent on common reports.

“Our previous method of data entry was keying reports dictated by officers, which was time consuming, inefficient and strenuous,” said Civilian Data Entry member Michael Cox. “The three most important things about data entry are accuracy, speed and consistency.  Using Nuance’s technology, I have improved in all three aspects.  By adding new words and phrases specific to policing and to our Service in particular, I am able to complete reports quicker, reducing the need for spell checks, while at the same time producing consistent and accurate results.” 

The bottleneck of reports in the past would have backlogged for as many as three to four weeks, but now, with reports being submitted and systematized daily, there is no longer an excess accumulation.

“At one point our Civilian Data Entry members were three to four weeks behind in adding reports,” said Staff Sergeant Childs. “That queue is now finished daily and completely up-to-date. I check that queue every morning, and, on average, there are no more than 20 reports at any given time and they are often done by noon, so our Civilian Data Entry member resources are even able to be reallocated to other tasks with the extra time they have now.”

Chatham-Kent’s leadership team supported the incorporation of voice technology into the Services’ report-filing process from the very beginning. The group’s endorsement of the voice solutions led to greater support for the software from the overall Service.

“Dragon saves our officers and our support staff significant amounts of time in the reporting process, which has increased our efficiency and is helping us meet the ever-increasing challenges of modern policing and the demands of the justice system,” said Chief Poole.

Ultimately, the Service has seen a surplus of benefits from incorporating voice technology into the reporting process. With greater flexibility and convenience for officers, condensed assignments for Civilian Data Entry members and better quality reports for the Crown Attorney and Court resolution process, the Chatham-Kent Police Service has seen a significant return on its investment. Occupational injuries to Civilian Data Entry staff have also been drastically reduced.


Looking Forward

The successful experience with voice technology has prompted CKPS to explore further areas in which it can be utilized. The Service plans to continue using the technology in the future, including a possible expansion to license plate dictation. Frontline officers save time by avoiding keyed entry in favor of speaking a license plate’s alphanumeric code into their devices and having all of the important vehicle information displayed on their screens.

Childs said, “The refining and restructuring of our business practices, human resources and internal processes, along with the use of Dragon as a document input management tool, has enabled this organization to increase productivity and save time, effort and budgetary dollars.”

Through the adoption of voice recognition solutions, the Chatham-Kent Police Service remains a positive example of how voice technology can greatly benefit agencies. Indeed, the rapidly evolving state of voice recognition and other technology solutions forecasts a more pragmatic and efficient future for the law enforcement industry.  

For further information about the Chatham-Kent Police Service, see:


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