Law Enforcement Technology

MAR 2017

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T E C H O N PAT R O L to the Cloud From Carbon How today's report writing software continues to get better By Michelle Perin Ken Plunkett, West Covina (CA) Police Department agrees, "Transition was a little difficult because it looked and felt different to us as officers. It was kind of hard for us to adapt at first." Officer designers RWS was originally designed from the developer's viewpoint. "The people who were creating it had a focus on what it needed to do and a vision as to what it should look and feel like," explains Plunkett. "I think the original versions were not so user friendly because it didn't really come from the users. It came from the developers. Once we started seeing it, using it and provid- ing some feedback, it evolved into something that we were all happy with using." Brian Pugh, product line man- ager at Spillman Technologies, which was recently purchased by Motorola, agrees—designers did not recognize the true end-user in developing RWS. "In the past it was designed more (for) a records clerk (and) the information they would need to gather." Developers at Spillman, which serves over 1,700 agen- cies, studied the environment an officer works in and what information they need to gather to improve their product. Mirror image To deal with the resistance to change, some first generation RWS attempted to mimic the paper forms officers were used to. "What people did was take word documents and form templates of their exact form," states Tony White, West Covina Service Group (WCSG). A unique developer started by the city and police department in the 1990s, they purchased the source code, hired programmers and started building a product which includes a hosted envi- ronment so customers don't have to have their own hardware or servers. Their RWS literally grew from the end- users out to their customer base. "Once our reports started looking and feeling like our normal reports that we used to write on, the guys saw the benefits of it," Plunkett states. Now officers are more tolerant of electronic forms without it being a mirror image. New RWS is also built on a better architectural base with advanced tech- nology. It can be easily customizable, unlike first generation software. "Field reporting (used) to be too static, too hard to change," explains Pugh. "It was cumbersome for the officer to use and then cumbersome for supervisors to review." He also indicates overall stability wasn't ideal. "The load time to open up a form was slow," he says. It was common for it to crash and the officer to lose all the data they had been working on. New generation "techies" Along with finding ways to sell the sea- soned officers on RWS, the new genera- tion of officers had to be considered as well. "As you bring new law enforcement folks into the fold, people are more used to pre-filled forms online, like book- ing a hotel or buying something," says White. Using drop-down menus and fillable e-forms on a variety of electron- ics is commonplace to these officers. "The new generation, all the newer officers we're hiring, they're all computer L aw enforcement has moved into an increasingly paperless environ- ment. The days when an officer pulled out a triplicate form to write a report are in the past. Officers who have some years under their belt reminisce about the evolution. "I have lived the lifecycle of carbon paper through to the infancy of going paperless (word processor with printing) to where Summerville is now a paperless agency," explains Officer Rob Christie, Summerville (SC) Police/Fire Department. With more than 20 years in the business, he remembers the integra- tion of electronic report writing soft- ware (RWS), aka field reporting. Much like the difference between an Atari game system and a Wii, this software has grown in leaps and bounds from its first generation. This growth doesn't appear to be stopping anytime soon as RWS developers continue to make improvements. Evolution of RWS In the beginning there were a number of issues with RWS and not just with the technology. The main issue was resistance to change. "If we go back to our first generation, the biggest issues weren't the software, but the officer and staff," says Christie. "They had only known paper so moving them to a virtual world was a bit cumbersome. I remem- ber the time after our 'cut over day'. The officers would type their report, print it, give it to someone to read and edit and then submit it electronically. This was all because they weren't used to reading and editing on the screen." Lieutenant 16 LAW ENFORCEMENT TECHNOLOGY MARCH 2017

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