Police paperwork officer patrol

Police Paperwork: How to Decrease the Burden with Mobile Data Capture


Police incident reports and other mandated police paperwork takes much-needed time and attention from actual policing. However, without accurate case files, successful prosecution is not possible, and multi-incident crimes go unsolved.

Manually documenting everything on a computer or hand-writing forms and reports eats time better put into critical tasks. And, it increases the chances of human error, which can destroy a case.

In this blog, we will look at the following questions:

  1. How much time do police officers spend doing paperwork?
  2. What are the consequences of overburdening officers with paperwork?
  3. What technology solutions can reduce the burden of paperwork?
  4. How do Police Forces use Mobile Data Capture Technologies in Practice?
  5. Is Mobile Data Capture Safe for Use by Police?

1. How much time do police officers spend doing paperwork?

According to one recent survey, officers in the US can spend around three hours or more per shift on paperwork. It is three hours that they aren’t patrolling neighborhoods or answering calls. The hours spent doing manual paperwork are shortchanging both citizens and police officers and negatively impact the law enforcement agency, community, and police officer’s personal life.

police paperwork folders

2. What are the consequences of overburdening officers with paperwork?

Accurate and reliable paperwork is fundamental to policing. Speaking to the Policing Matters Podcast, Dr. Janay M. Gasparini – Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Shepherd University, shared that “if it isn’t recorded, it didn’t happen!”

The two most significant issues with police paperwork are that it consumes time and increases mistakes.

Departments have to document everything, but it wastes human resources if done inefficiently. Human errors sometimes happen because solely focusing on completing incident reports and other documentation is a mind-numbing task, especially when they have zero time for policing – which is their primary job.

The life of a law enforcement officer works from call to call. It means many incident reports get written while they’re in the field. Officer’s eyes are not on their surroundings, and entering data into a mobile data terminal (MDT) puts them and others at risk.

Multi-tasking is not something an officer should be doing, either. Not to mention that writing reports from a patrol vehicle puts wear and tear on the human body. Police cars are not designed as an ergonomic typing environment.

Incorrect, incomplete, or hastily done police reports can sink a court case and a police officer’s career.

3. What technology solutions can reduce the burden of paperwork?

Smartphone Scanning

All law enforcement officers have smartphones. Mobile data capture is an immediate solution. Officers collect information and data from complainants, witnesses, and other sources. Mobile data capture allows officers to scan most of that information using their mobile devices quickly. It includes driver’s licenses and license plates. That information is auto-fillable into the officer’s log and is checkable in real-time against the police databases.

It is accurate and efficient to complete the necessary paperwork on their smart devices while they’re in the field. It means less time in the office, hunched in the cars, and more time patrolling their communities and answering calls.

Certified eSignatures

Another key innovation is signing software for remote witness statements. COVID-19 made this newest technology even more essential to the life of a law enforcement officer. Certified eSignatures allow complainants and witnesses to sign forms without officers without the need for face-to-face contact. Because of that, eSignature software is not only safer. It is saving forces a lot of time when it comes to police paperwork.

In fact, when speaking at the 2021 Police Digital Summit, the Head of Digital Policing at the British Transport Police Supt. Chris Casey said that when using such software: “a process that can often take weeks is wrapped up in a matter of minutes!”

Speech Recognition Technologies

Speech recognition not only makes for more accurate and detailed incident reports, but it also allows an officer to use their voice in place of typing. It is safer for the officer in the field, and can cuts report writing time by up to a third. What’s more, officers are used to summing up the situation on the ground via their radio, making a speech tool an intuitive way to add information to their report on the go.

4. How do Police Forces use Mobile Data Capture Technologies in Practice?

Law enforcement agencies around the world are already reducing the burden of paperwork on their officers. Mobile data capture is put to work every day by officers in everything from routine traffic stops, to searches and evidence collection.

In Austria, officers use integrated scanners on their mobile devices to quickly scan IDs and vehicle license plates. Another example can be found in Gibraltar, where the same mobile scanning technology is used by the border patrol to check identification documents at the country’s land border as well as at marinas and sea ports.

5. Is Mobile Data Capture Safe for Use by Police?

Mobile scanning from Anyline is safe to use and trusted by governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. All data scanning is processed on the officer’s device – without any transfer to an external server. Because of this, all data remains secure in the hands of the officer, and can then be checked against the closed police system to check against internal databases in real time. If you are considering implementing mobile data capture into your police force mobile devices, ensure your vendor 1) allows for on-device, offline data scanning, 2) provides GDPR compliant technology and 3) is ISO 27001 certified.


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