Before 1985, over 20 percent of the average policeman's workday was spent filing reports. This means that for every eight-hour shift, each patrol officer spent two hours at a desk, two hours that could have been spent on the street, making a difference. In St. Louis County, the Police Department generates over 100,000 of these reports per year--a forest of paperwork. After months of research, the St. Louis Police Department designed a system to relieve the officers and the Police Department of some of this paperwork and get them back out on the streets.
The system, Computer Assisted Report Entry (CARE), was designed by in-house personnel to streamline the reporting process, saving the Department time and resources. Under the old system, a citizen would call the police and a dispatcher would direct a patrol car to the location, where the officer would respond to the call and keep notes for the report she would have to file--often hours later. If necessary, the report would then be sent to the detective bureau for follow-up, usually 16 days later.
Since the introduction of CARE in 1985, reports are prepared from the moment the citizen calls. Under the new system, the dispatcher creates a report while directing the officer to the scene. When the officer reaches the scene and establishes the situation, she will call the station and file a report through the new system. As the dispatcher has already started the report, valuable time has already been saved. An added benefit lies in the fact that the officer files the report immediately, ensuring that little will be lost between the officer's notes and memory, a potential loss that was an unavoidable situation under the old system. Further, if the report requires attention from the detective bureau, it is sent there in 15 minutes, permitting a follow-up in one or two days--not 16--days later. The response time enhances the community's perception of the Department and how seriously their complaints are taken. Also, if a citizen's call does not require an officer's immediate attention, the citizen may file a report with the operator, on the phone, that very moment.
Not only does the system transport reports electronically, saving time, resources, and manpower, but it provides a database of crime statistics that is available on a day-to-day basis--a powerful tool for investigation and performance evaluation. The reports are also stored electronically, saving on the previously needed microfilm production, storage space, and photocopy machines. Police officers, prosecutors and defense attorneys all laud the system for the clear and concise reports generated for court proceedings.
The program's transferability is high, but the system requires an initial investment to cater to each department's individual needs. This initial cost will surely be justified as other police departments continue to witness the improved service and efficiency of the St. Louis Police Department, and the long-term savings for the St. Louis taxpayer.