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Driving innovation in law enforcement: Voice recognition solutions support efficient police work

An officer’s pocket notebook is on the way toward becoming a thing of the past

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A growing number of agencies have discovered that voice recognition technology can have a positive impact on officers’ report quality, accuracy and timeliness.


By Ed McGuiggan

The image of police officers interviewing witnesses while taking notes in their pocket-sized notebook is so ingrained in our minds, it’s almost impossible to envision any other scenario. How else are they supposed to remember critical details so they can write an accurate report later?

There has to be – to quote every bad infomercial ever – a better way! The truth is that these handy notebooks are on their way toward becoming a thing of the past.

Picture this: an officer responds to a call from a witness reporting two neighbors involved in a heated argument about a fence. The officer interviews both neighbors and the witness, jotting down notes and trying their best to capture all the relevant details – understanding that each person has their own unique take on the situation at hand. It quickly becomes information overload and, frankly, too much to take down and assimilate in the heat of the moment. Three more calls and several hours later, the officer arrives back at the station, ready to draft incident reports for the day.

How much of each incident can the officer accurately recall to create the best possible reports? Science tells us the answer is not as much as necessary, unfortunately.

Short-term memory limitations

Short-term memories are notoriously limited, both in terms of capacity and duration. Further, some research suggests that memory recall is decreased when people are involved in high-stress conditions, often the definition of police work.

Although taking a few notes can help jog these memories, there are technologies and resources available that can make all of these processes more effective, efficient and rewarding for officers.

How voice recognition can help imperfect memories

Oftentimes, police work means creating accurate, detailed incident reports, which support a range of stakeholders – from detectives and investigators to the courts, social workers and local officials, many of whom are tasked with allocating and optimizing available resources. And these reports too often depend on imperfect memories.

But a growing number of agencies have discovered that voice recognition technology, particularly platforms that are designed and built specifically for law enforcement officers, can have a positive impact on officers’ report quality, accuracy and timeliness.

Let’s return to our neighbors engaged in a fence-line dispute. When the officer arrives on scene to interview them and the witness, there is no need to depend on a notebook and pen to take notes. Instead, the officer can open their smartphone and, with the support of a speech recognition app built for law enforcement officers, dictate notes in full detail, even using their voice to command the app to take photos of the property and evidence – all in the moment while the details are fresh and not subject to short term memory loss.

Taking this scenario a step further, the officer will then return to the patrol vehicle to begin drafting the incident report within the records management system (RMS) right away. Here too the officer can depend on voice recognition to open the appropriate report template, navigate between fields and dictate the comprehensive report narrative (incidentally, doing so about three times faster than if the officer were to type it manually) all while still at the scene.

The officer can also use a voice command to run a vehicle license plate search in the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS), noting any discovered priors within the report. Once this initial report is completed, the officer saves it, making it available to finalize toward the end of the shift.

Now the officer is free to return to the scene, finish speaking with the neighbors and witness, and move on with the day, repeating this same process for every call until the end of the shift. Once the report is finalized and filed, it’s not only available to the officer’s sergeant and captain, but also in the records department, should one of the neighbors choose to keep a copy of it for future reference.

The future of law enforcement will be shaped by voice recognition technologies

These technologies and resources are available to law enforcement agencies today, and the advantages are clear – and not just in terms of improving efficiency in creating accurate incident reports and expediting document management workflows.

Speech recognition technology is also going to transform the way departments capture the content of interviews.

We can now envision the “interview room of the future” where detectives interview suspects and witnesses, supported by an ambient speech recognition solution that securely “listens” to the conversation and diarizes the entire dialogue into a comprehensive, timestamped transcript. Not only will this solution save police departments time and money as they avoid the costs inherent to transcription and overtime, but it will also free officers from some of the administrative burdens that can get in the way of serving their communities and doing good police work.

It’s a vision for the future of law enforcement that’s not only possible, it’s within reach.

About the author

Ed McGuiggan is general manager for the Dragon Professional and Consumer business, overseeing the strategy for Nuance’s Dragon speech recognition and documentation product line. Ed has held various leadership roles within Nuance over the past two decades, including the creation, development and expansion of the company’s worldwide eCommerce business, as well as the management of the Corporate and Retail sales teams. Prior to joining Nuance in 1997, Ed held senior management roles at FTP Software and Corporate Software, Inc. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications from Emerson College.