Richland is a city in southeast Washington with a population of about 52,000. Our police department has a staff of 73 including 58 police officers. Like any government agency, we’re constantly challenged to increase our effectiveness while controlling costs. In law enforcement, communication, collaboration and the accurate and timely sharing of information is critical. It was clear that our old system was too slow, static, and costly. Patrol officers were spending six to eight hours a week on administrative tasks. That’s the time they couldn’t be on the streets policing our community. My command and the supervisory staff was spending fifty percent of their time on administrative duties.
"SmartForce provided a searchable and analyzable document management function that replaced our shared-folder system"
Our document management system was a patchwork of processes supported by Microsoft Excel and Word documents. Documentation for most of our processes still relied on paper, which was time-consuming and difficult to access and analyze. We saved critical documents on a network shared drive, but locating the most up-to-date versions was a challenge.
Our communication was far too dependent on e-mails that were susceptible to human error and too easy to ignore or delay. Our officers frequently received notifications in the field, but accessing that information could be difficult. Our crime analysis team emailed weekly reports to our officers but those reports sometimes became obsolete shortly after they were sent.
While completing my MBA, I had spent time in China evaluating how organizations managed workflow. I was impressed with how multinational companies, with employees scattered around the globe, used technology to improve communication and collaboration. I thought some of those same processes could help police departments share information. That was what eventually brought us to SmartForce.
We teamed up with Adventos, a consulting firm, to deploy a Business-Critical SharePoint Solution on the Microsoft Office 365 cloud. SmartForce provided three main benefits. It greatly enhanced our ability to share information internally, between shifts and squads, and externally with other agencies and community groups. Supervisors can now “electronically” pull together an entire squad regardless of location. Officers remain in the field while sharing critical information. The time each officer now spends in shift briefings has been cut in half, from three hours per week to one and a half hours. My supervisory staff reduced the time it spends on administrative tasks from four hours per shift to two and a half hours. It also has enhanced our ability to share information with other law enforcement agencies.
SmartForce also automates workflow by replacing our paper-based processes with electronic forms and workflows. It provides a searchable and analyzable document management function that replaced our shared-folder system. Our officers now can quickly locate documents as search time has decreased and accountability has increased. And finally, SmartForce enhanced our ability to access and analyze crime data by integrating our record management system with Bair Analytics’ crime analytics software. Our officers now get information on crime trends and crime predictions in the field, in real time.
I can safely say that SmartForce has helped us solve and prevent crimes. It has decreased non-productive time by three hours per officer per week. That’s the equivalent of adding three more officers to my department. At a cost of $150,000 per officer per year, that is a $450,000 annual savings, far more than the cost to purchase and maintain the system.
My advice to any organization looking to automate its processes is— don’t go about it alone. You need a partner with experience in your industry. Adventos already had built a solution for a police department so SmartForce was designed specifically to meet the needs of law enforcement. We were able to incorporate the new system at a comfortable pace, and quickly improve efficiency and cut costs.