It used to be that when an officer from Ontario’s Hamilton Police Service (HPS) responded to investigate a call about an emotionally disturbed person (EDP), he would have two options to determine risk factors as he proceeded. He could either drive back to the station with the EDP to look up past reports, or place a call and wait for a records clerk to pull the report and read it to him over the phone. Either way, the officer would be off the street, sometimes for hours, waiting for the necessary information to act on.
Today, responding to the same call, an officer can pull up reports right in his patrol car, accessing information vital to the safety of the EDP—and the public—using just a name, incident number or other keyword. Using a simple but powerful document management program called Laserfiche
, years of reports and related documents have been scanned into a searchable, secure database that uses a Google-like interface to find any important piece of information, anytime, from the safety of an officer’s on-board computer.
It is this progressive integration of information management into police business processes that has transformed the HPS from a command and control police model to a community-based and problem-solving service during the last decade. Electronic document management has allowed police staff to spend more time in the community and less time traveling back and forth to the station.
It all began when IT Manager Ross Memmlo started investigating electronic document management solutions to alleviate storage costs and repurpose valuable office space. Laserfiche reseller IKON Office Solutions representative Franz Gangl came in and demonstrated Laserfiche’s information management capabilities to Memmlo, IT Administrator Diana Scime, Shari Moore and HPS Records Supervisor Gary Holden. The rest is history.
Phase I began with scanning current incident reports and Motor Vehicle Collision (MVC) reports, followed by the implementation of Laserfiche Quick Fields software—an advanced capture tool that automatically indexes and files reports. This was especially useful for the massive backlog conversion project that would eventually add 860,000 TIFF images to the system. The department scanned everything—photographs, willsays, handwritten notes—into folders. The repository soon held more than 300,000 active and historical incident reports, DNA records, MVC reports, pardon files and sudden death reports.
One challenge Holden faced was reworking the department’s existing paper processes. Many of its serious offenses needed to be disseminated to many different officers and divisions. The new process had to ensure that the report was coded according to Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, then scanned, entered on the Canadian Police Information Center (CPIC) system and reassigned for further investigation. The process changed how the Records Business Center handled the reports. To remedy the situation, Holden created a color-coded folder system that staff uses to process reports prior to scanning.
Quick Fields’ automated indexing also helped Holden to standardize the record keeping process, which, along with Laserfiche’s fuzzy search capabilities, has almost completely eradicated misfiling. If a report is improperly indexed, a quick search can be run to locate it within the database.
This search capability has become especially empowering to police officers. “Optical Character Recognition (OCR) allows the front-line officer to glean valuable information from reports that wasn’t accessible in the past,” Holden said.
If an officer wants to know more about a rash of breaking and entering incidents in a situation where all he knows is that a red pick-up truck with a unique decal on the side door was involved, he can use Laserfiche search to look up other reports. You can’t possibly index every piece of information within a police report, but OCR and fuzzy search allow for full-text searching to address that problem, making it a valuable investigative tool.
It has become even more valuable since Hamilton deployed Laserfiche WebLink. With Internet access to the Laserfiche repository, officers can view police reports on their mobile data terminals (MDT), and it has effectively made their cruisers an extension of the Records Management System (RMS). They can search five historical reports right away.
For law enforcement staff, the ability to view active missing person photos or photographs of lost or stolen property is critical when locating a missing youth on the street or locating previously stolen property.
The HPS Laserfiche team plans to expand Laserfiche to Hamilton’s human resources and legal departments, which will involve answering concerns about employee confidentiality and security rights.
For support and future projects, Holden has been able to tap into a dedicated network of Police Service Laserfiche user groups which share tips, tricks and best practices—like the ones for expanding use of HPS’ document management system to its human resources department.
York Police Service uses Laserfiche for data management in its HR department. Holden gathered information from them about their implementation and training processes. He then used this information to formulate his own strategy, highlighting the abilities to assign multi-layered security to employee records in transit and for assigned HR staff to view documents from their desktops, as well as reducing paper files and achieving better controlling retention.
With three separate divisions, yearly performance reviews can now be shipped electronically among offices. Staff finds it easy to understand Laserfiche as a simple storage repository, but they can also see how they are able to move things around securely and confidentially. This is possible because rights allowing users to browse a report but not open it can be assigned so that they will be directed to see the proper authority to obtain a copy of the report when necessary. This greatly facilitates disclosure processes.
To be able to redact sensitive information was also key to the Records Business Center’s ability to process disclosures to the courts and outside agencies. The Business Center used to copy reports—twice—then black out the information, and then copy the vetted version again. According to Holden, redacting in Laserfiche has saved them a fortune in paper and time. Stamping and sticky note annotations that are part of the software allow for disclosure/non-disclosure issues and verification/validation processes of ongoing police investigations.
It wasn’t until Holden could show that Laserfiche Audit Trail would ensure the integrity of legal documents that the Crown [District] Attorney signed on. It took several meetings with the Crown Attorney to ensure them there were no legal issues with producing these documents as evidence in court. The quality of the images and how they’d be using Audit Trail to confirm when a document was scanned or modified was presented. They were ultimately able to scan in every document, except for witness statements, which they requested to remain in their original paper form.
Ultimately, the Hamilton Police Service has realized a significant amount of savings by using Laserfiche to refine its business processes. About $200,000 has been saved annually, due to downsizing civilian staff in the Records Business Center as officers are able to access vital information directly.
Officers spend more time in the community because they no longer have to attend Central Station to view reports. Clerks save time because they no longer have to locate reports and read them to officers over the phone. Valuable floor space has been reclaimed from paper storage. Redacting documents in Laserfiche saves money in paper and in time spent helping staff more easily meet file requests from the courts and outside agencies.
The Laserfiche ECM system is designed to give IT managers central control over their information infrastructure, including standards, security and auditing, while still offering business units the flexibility to react quickly to changing conditions. The Laserfiche product suite is built on top of Microsoft® technologies to simplify system administration, supports Microsoft SQL and Oracle® platforms, and features a seamless integration with Microsoft Office® applications and a two-way integration with SharePoint®.
Laserfiche distributes its software through a worldwide network of value-added resellers (VARs) who tailor solutions to clients’ individual needs. The Laserfiche VAR program has received the Five-Star rating from Computer Reseller News/VARBusiness magazine.
Laserfiche is a registered trademark of Compulink Management Center, Inc. Hobey Echlin is a Laserfiche writer/researcher and is active in the Laserfiche Luminaries program.