The Paperwork Burden in Policing

Why law enforcement should take cues from the healthcare industry and reduce paperwork to help improve burnout, productivity, and safety.


By Mark Geremia       


Heavy reporting requirements continue to be a barrier to productivity within many industries. It is also one of the main contributors to burnout, which is making headlines again in an industry Nuance Communications works with often – healthcare. I bring this up because the similarities between the documentation issues the healthcare industry faces are very similar to those in law enforcement. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine called physician burnout a crisis and while healthcare recognized this early, it’s placing it as the center of attention again. Law enforcement may want to do the same.


A national survey of police departments is similar to what we have seen for over a decade within the healthcare industry. Officers, like doctors, say they can spend over 50% of their time on incident reporting; in fact, anywhere from 3-4 hours per shift. Police officers, like doctors, are required to capture details of each encounter. This means they are mired daily in paperwork, completing reports at the station, or while in their patrol vehicles within computer-aided dispatch or records management systems, or finishing up admin tasks after hours. Like physicians, police officers are feeling the results of paperwork burnout.


Sadly, like doctors, heavy reporting demands are shifting focus away from serving communities (the original purpose for getting into public safety) to spending hours on documentation. And the effects of paperwork overload are great - incomplete and inaccurate reports, missed deadlines or stalled criminal proceedings, to officer retention and safety issues with officers staying heads-down in patrol vehicles.


The healthcare industry recognized early the direct correlation between heavy paperwork requirements and burnout and began to turn to powerful documentation solutions to help. Some police departments are beginning to do the same. Today, thanks to new reporting solutions like Dragon Law Enforcement, this is becoming much easier to accomplish.


Instead of manually typing reports, officers can use their voice to lookup or enter information into their laptops and stay heads-up and more focused and safer while on patrol. For instance, an officer can simply say “enter plate Alpha Bravo Charlie 123,” or dictate a report and respond to calls by voice, all while keeping their eyes on their surroundings.

  

By dictating notes in real-time, officers create the “narrative” of each incident, leading to more accurate reporting.  They simply speak to create their reports, 3 times faster than typing and with up to 99% recognition accuracy. 


And faster reporting can also help return-back time to police officers. This means they can spend less time at the station typing incident reports and more time out on patrol keeping communities safe


The healthcare industry recognized early that the threat of paperwork was a core contributor to physician burnout. They began to acknowledge and address it by turning to powerful documentation solutions. Law enforcement should do likewise.