How technology eases the way to NIBRS compliance at every level of policing
Software solutions can ease the transition to a new reporting system while also making the day-to-day lives of officers easier
Content provided by Tyler Tech
By Skip Bland
Public safety agencies at the local, state and federal levels each have their own specific concerns, but they also have many issues in common. Currently, they are all grappling with mandates to change their reporting process to comply with the National Incident-Based Reporting standard (NIBRS). We asked industry experts for insights on how this shift impacts policing at the different levels of government and how technology can ease the transition.
Impacts of the Shift to NIBRS
Since the early 1970s, law enforcement agencies have summarized reporting under the Uniform Crime Reporting Standard (UCR Standard). Now, the FBI is migrating these agencies to NIBRS. Although the shift can be stressful, local law enforcement will experience clear benefits.
“NIBRS gives local law enforcement the ability to see statistically what is going on and combat crime in their locale,” said Clark Nethers, a senior implementation consultant for Incode Public Safety with 22 years of local law enforcement experience. “From a broader standpoint, a small agency may want to look at a neighboring agency to see how crime over there compares to them … It allows administrators to guide their departments, have better enforcement, and focused enforcement towards certain types of crime that they're trying to combat.”
The reporting change also enables the public to examine statistics on the FBI’s website or local portals. Adam Bobola, a 13-year law enforcement veteran and 10-year Tyler staff member with the Public Safety Division, noted it’s a good thing for citizens to be able to research and compare any locations with apples-to-apples crime statistics.
“One of the biggest things that we see during this transition process,” Bobola said, “is because they're going from a summary-based reporting system to an incident-based reporting system, there's this spike that we'd call a crime spike.” All of a sudden, jurisdictions are reporting everything, whereas with UCR, they only captured certain crimes. What looks like a significant crime spike can be alarming to elected officials and leaders. Getting ahead of this alarm involves educating government agencies about the impending spike in case numbers based on reporting standards, not area incident rates.
Once they are familiar with the nuances, however, accessing and analyzing the data from this new reporting method ultimately helps leaders compare agencies, locations, offenses and more. Analytics used in every type of business come into play here as well, informing smarter decisions resulting in safer communities. The challenge comes in making sure that agencies and officers are equipped to face the hurdles introduced by this mandated change. Additional data entry or retraining can be daunting in departments with already scarce resources. How can agencies ensure the transition is successful?
How To Smooth the NIBRS Transition
Nethers noted intuitive software minimizing the impact of change is key. Such software, for example, “can do all the heavy lifting for them so the administrators within their department can then push that data on to the state and onto the FBI.”
According to Skip Bland, whose 15 years in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations led to his current position as a subject matter expert at Tyler Technologies, many federal agencies welcome the shift. This is because it encourages jurisdictions to submit more detailed intelligence. He emphasized, however, that thoughtfully selecting and implementing new software is the key to making the transition successful.
To prepare for the reporting switch and realize results for those they protect, Bland noted agencies should focus on technology that is, “NIBRS compliant, configurable, and truly meets the needs of the modern-day law enforcement officer.” Software solutions can, indeed, ease the transition to a new reporting system while also making the day-to-day lives of officers easier. That’s not the only benefit. As Bland continued, “They’ll be helping out not only their own staff, but they’ll be helping out the people they protect on a daily basis.”
Better Reporting, Safer Communities
The switch to NIBRS reporting, and any software selected to support that change, is ultimately about being more effective at ensuring public safety. “The ultimate goal,” added Bobola, “is to limit the time spent in the office or at the department filling out reports so that the officers can be in the field, protecting the citizens, and providing a safer community.”