Canadian police forces extend long arm of the law with electronic records management systems

Just about every police service in Canada is turning to modern electronic records management systems (RMS) to support traditional police work.

Across the country, police forces are finding that automated records systems can drastically speed up access to data, reduce downtime, and cut costs.

This week, the Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM), announced that it had selected Niche RMS as the technology behind their new electronic RMS. With 4400 officers, the SPVM is one of North America’s largest policing organizations.

Niche RMS, developed by Winnipeg based Niche Technologies Inc., is a specialized police records management system that is being adopted by a growing number of police services across Canada and around the world. The deployment of Niche systems at Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) facilities is considered by the company to be its largest implementation.

The SPVM were reassured by the fact that the Niche RMS could support large implementations such as the RCMP’s 15,000 users.

Like other police services in the upgrade stream, they are going from a legacy system with multiple components, to a single comprehensive system.

Superintendent Chuck Walker of the RCMP said that their records used to be paper-based, and were stored in over 650 spots across the country.

While it was indexed electronically, the old system could only indicate the existence of information about an individual or business. It could not display the actual record.

That remained a manual process.

“Your view of that information was severely limited,” Walker recalled.

“Now with this technology, we have the equivalent of a virtual records room, where all of our operational case information is in an electronic format, which makes it accessible to everyone,” he said.

According to John James, director of operations and business development for Niche, the unified nature of their system will produce significant savings in support costs and licensing fees.

The SPVM expect savings of $4 million by the third year of the project and $30 million over a 15-year period.

For the RCMP, however, cost savings was not the focus of their PROS (police reporting and occurrence system) program.

“Our stated goals were to be more intelligence-led and more accountable,” explained Walker. “This technology supports both goals.”

A key feature of electronic records management systems, explained Walker, is the ability to consolidate large amounts of information on people, businesses or events into a single repository.

The technology allows information to be captured once and “master filed” at a national level, immediately accessible by anyone on the system.

This offered the RCMP a significant improvement in their operations.

Walker said that investigators can now spot relationships between data more easily, and link data back to a comprehensive profile of an individual or event.

It also allows a larger number of investigators, who may be scattered across the country, to contribute to a single file.

This ability is enabled by a single platform that supports mobile users and their supervisors, who can access the same file during an investigation.

Supervisors are now in a better position to monitor the work of investigators.

The RMS application also enhances accountability across units, as its workflow tasking capabilities enables oversight of multiple locations when there’s a call for assistance.

All of this can now be tracked and monitored electronically.

“You can mobilize your whole client application into a mobile environment, as the RCMP has done,” said James. “The Mounties have all of the capabilities in the car as they do in the desktop environment.”

In the future, the mobility of the technology may be extended even further by the use of handheld devices that allow plain clothes officers and bicycle patrols to access system data wherever they are.

The ability to access the RMS from a handheld device already exists today according to Walker.

The other new development is the greater ease of sharing information between police services.

Some of this is being driven by the threat of terrorism and the risk to the public in certain types of criminal investigations.

Niche’s James pointed out that communications between different police services is significantly enhanced by electronic RMS technology, increasing the likelihood that investigations and prosecutions will be successful.

In Canada, PIP (Police Information Portal), an RCMP standard, ensures interoperability.

“It’s about bringing down the jurisdictional barriers that the criminal element exploits,” as Walker puts it.

The most significant hurdle to implementation encountered by the RCMP have very little to do with the technology or the infrastructure that it runs on, explained Walker.

“Changing business processes was the biggest challenge.”

Personnel had to first understand the technology and the new functions it offered, Walker said. Then they considered how these new abilities might be best applied.

Finally, the force got down to re-tooling business process to take advantage of the new technology and the investment they made.

“The critical piece to all of this is governance,” he emphasized.

“You need good operational governance. The end user has to be represented in the governance, which will help to define the priorities, policies, training outputs and changes to the system. The other things will flow from that.”


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