Does your law enforcement agency have more work than it can handle? If so, learning to how choose the right law enforcement transcription service provider may be something to consider.
If this is your first time browsing, you might feel stuck with all the different options. There are so many companies competing for your business, and they aren’t all equal.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know to make an informed decision on which law enforcement transcription provider to choose.
Table of Contents
- The Relevance of Transcription in Law Enforcement
- How You Can Use Transcripts for Investigations
- The Law Enforcement Transcription Process
- Law Enforcement Specialty Areas
- The Importance of CJIS Compliance
- How Law Enforcement Transcription can Affect a Case
- Advantages to Outsourcing Law Enforcement Transcription Services
- How to Choose the Best Law Enforcement Transcription Provider
- Downloadable PDF of Questions to Ask the Law Enforcement Transcription Provider
- Over to You
The Relevance of Transcription in Law Enforcement
Law enforcement transcription has advanced with the technology of audio and video recording. These days, police officers are encouraged to verbally dictate and record incidents while they happen or immediately afterward. Officers who don’t have body cams can carry handheld digital recording devices, or use their smartphones, to record their thoughts on-site which eliminates the need to remember details later.
Audio and video surveillance equipment has also gone digital. Police can hide micro-cameras and recording devices in discrete places like pockets and even in plant pots.
Besides on scene, audio recordings are taken during suspect and witness interviews, 911 calls, jail calls, and wiretaps.
Transcription turns audio files into a text document. You can print the document for anyone who needs it, making it easy to follow along and easier to highlight and go back to something important later.
Having audio files transcribed into documents makes it simple to find and sort files. Transcription documents are usually stored on a CJIS compliant server or folders on the computer. It can even evolve into a legal transcript, which can be used by the attorneys in court as evidence or to backup a statement.
Finally, outsourcing police transcription lightens the workload for officers all over the US. Incident reporting is crucial to police work and helps move criminal proceedings forward. However, officers say they spend 27% or 2.5 hours or more per shift on paperwork.
The time-consuming documentation demands can create ripple effects in agencies — missed deadlines, inaccurate or incomplete reports from officer burnout, and even the ability for officers to focus on-duty.
Law enforcement professionals aren’t the only ones who need law enforcement transcription.
Federal Agencies (FBI, DEA), private security firms, detective agencies, and forensic labs all use law enforcement transcription as well. The burden affects all of these fields with paperwork that could be alleviated by outsourcing transcription.
How You Can Use Transcripts for Investigations
To give you a better idea of the use of transcription in law enforcement, here are some ways transcripts can help develop investigations.
1. Evidence Management
Transcripts are invaluable for evidence management. They are searchable, allowing law enforcement professionals to quickly find critical moments within an audio or video recording of an investigation.
2. Writing Reports
On top of a variety of evidence management uses, transcription can speed up the report writing process. Once officers have the key information in a proper text format, they can plug it into their report and move on.
Law enforcement officers conduct a lot of interviews as they are a paramount duty of the job. These interviews generally happen over the phone, video chat, and in-person. The audio recordings need to be reviewed for reports and evidence every time.
Transcribing interviews word for word can be a tedious challenge. Law enforcement transcription services can speed up the process while providing the best accuracy.
Depending on the need, the transcription provider can implement time stamps and speaker identification into the transcript. This is an excellent feature for law enforcement agencies to stay organized and have a clear idea of the transcript’s nature.
4. Surveillance Recordings
Surveillance recordings run for hours and sometimes are never-ending. Surveillance cameras are generally set up in stores, house lawns, parking lots, etc. Digging through that footage to find specific moments can take forever.
Handing these records to a transcription service to sort through can be a massive time-saver for law enforcement officers with more important duties. The transcripts have to be ready for court by a specific deadline. A reliable transcription provider always meets your provided deadlines.
A variety of technology exists to record an officer’s audio notes. These tools allow officers and investigators to record their thoughts as they process. These notes are much more effective as the information is fresh, and little details haven’t been forgotten. However, these audio notes can quickly pile up, creating a mountain of data that needs to be arranged and transcribed.
Transcription plays a role in all of the moving parts of an investigation. Without it, it’s fair to say that your law enforcement agency’s organization and ability to advance in investigations could be hindered.
The Law Enforcement Transcription Process
It’s good to know how the law enforcement transcription process works. With this knowledge, you can make smart decisions whether the provider you are considering takes the standard and proper steps to ensure your documents’ accuracy and privacy.
Below are the steps followed in law enforcement transcription:
Step 1: An officer or an official captures an audio or video recording. The recordings can be of patrol reports, accidents, crime scenes, interviews, jail calls, 911 calls, undercover wires, and everything in between. The officer can use an iPhone App or a handheld digital recorder.
Law enforcement transcription agencies accept audio and video files in a wide variety of formats. It’s best to check with your prospective provider to see if they can accept your specific format. Likewise, always tell the legal transcription provider the dates you require your files back.
Step 2: The law enforcement agency then sends the files through a secure file transfer to the CJIS compliant transcription provider. The transcriptionist listens to the audio and types the words as they are spoken. The transcriptionist may need to go over tricky parts twice and do necessary edits.
The transcriptionist follows the format you specified. Timestamps and speaker identification is inserted during this step.
Step 3: The provider sends the document to their quality assurance team for the second round of edits and final touches.
Step 4: The documents are sent back to you through a secure file transfer.
That’s it! These four simple steps assure the accuracy and quality of your transcript. Refrain from using a provider that skips the second editing step. The quality assurance team strengthens accuracy rates, and it is crucial for the transcript’s purpose.
Law Enforcement Specialty Areas
The typical law enforcement transcription services offered are:
- Patrol reports
- Suspect interrogation
- Victim interviews
- Witness statements
- Fire reports
- Inmate phone calls
- 911 dispatch phone calls
- Wiretaps and surveillance recordings
- Internal correspondence
- Staff and department meetings
Here at Ditto Transcripts we’ve adopted more services as we understand our client’s ever-changing needs. We also know law enforcement transcripts can be brought to court and be used by lawyers. That’s why we consider an overlap in the services we offer for law and legal transcription.
Here are some extras we offer:
- Court proceedings
- Traffic reports
- Dissertation transcription
- In-custody and patrol reports
- Internal affair investigations
- Q&A and narrative of all kinds
- Radio communications
- Seminar recordings
- Legal briefs
- Public hearings
- Legal pleadings
The lesson here is the more services offered by your transcription provider, the better. Don’t be limited by a company that only offers the basics, making you change providers down the road.
The Importance of CJIS Compliance
Any time a file with sensitive data is handed to a transcription provider, the company must be CJIS compliant. Working with a law enforcement transcription provider that is not CJIS compliant can lead to disastrous data breaches and massive lawsuits.
So, what is CJIS anyways?
CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Services Division) is the largest division run by the FBI. The CJIS stays on top of constantly changing technology trends and has created a set of security standards businesses that law enforcement agencies need to follow. Sensitive information protected by the CJIS security includes background checks, fingerprints, DNA evidence, copies of government-issued documents like passports, witness or suspect interviews, and more.
With the rising data security issues and the effectiveness of data hacking, it’s fair to say that without the CJIS, the security of data is the US would be put at major risk.
Who needs to be CJIS compliant?
Your law enforcement agency and any company you outsource sensitive data to needs to be CJIS compliant.
There are 13 CJIS compliance policies companies must follow in order to be compliant:
- Information exchange agreements that both companies handling sensitive data are CJIS compliant.
- Security awareness training for all employees in the first 6 months of starting the role.
- Incident response to data breaches, including safeguards.
- Implementation of audit controls and logging of information.
- Restrictions to data so only certain people have access.
- Setting log-in credentials for identification and authentication.
- Configuration authorization for certain people in the business.
- Digital and physical protection with safeguards, advanced security systems, and cameras.
- Equipment containing CJIS data is physically guarded at all times.
- System and communications protection with encryption, network security, data breach detection, and more.
- Companies with CJIS information are subject to audits at any time.
- Security screening for anyone working with CJIS data.
- Restrictions set against mobile devices, including phones, tablets, and laptops.
As you can see, being CJIS compliant is not a simple task. For a transcription provider to implement all of these security measures, it takes time, money, and resources.
For more information about the CJIS compliance policies, visit our CJIS page.
How Law Enforcement Transcription can Affect a Case
One mistake in the transcript can mean the difference between evidence getting accepted or dismissed in court in law enforcement. It can also be a factor in investigations to discover key clues to advance in a case or missing it altogether. While the accuracy of the transcript is everything, police officers are rarely in a position to transcribe on the job. This is mostly due to heavy workloads and exhaustion.
How can a basic typo affect an entire jail sentence?
In 2011, a Benton County man took part in a home invasion, the beating of two men, and various burglaries. At the trial 22-year-old Cody DeShields was sentenced to 36 years in prison for residual burglary, according to the records. Because of a transcription error, DeShield’s paperwork showed he was sentenced 36 months. “That’s just great,” said Paul Whitehorn, the victim of the home invasion.
Could psychology affect the transcript’s accuracy, therefore affecting a case?
Police often rely on “common knowledge” when transcribing — meaning that hearing is a straightforward process of picking up “what is to be heard.” However, the reality is that listeners’ unconscious expectations play an enormous role in shaping speech perception or also known as cognitive bias.
Song lyrics and humor are commonly misperceived. For example, you can’t quite make out what the singer is saying, so you make up the lyrics. Since it sounds so close to the real thing, your mind thinks that must be right.
While speech perception errors happen to most of us in our everyday life, it has a darker twist in criminal law.
A trial found a defendant guilty of murder and sentenced 30 years in prison because the police’s transcript that was brought to the court revealed the defendant saying “at the start, we made a pact.” After further investigation, they found it said something sounding similar, but completely different in context.
After this finding, they determined it was the defendant’s son who murdered the victim. The son confessed and was convicted and sentenced in a separate trial. The father had a solid alibi. The entire idea that the father was involved in any way arose through a detective believing they heard words which were interpreted as an admission that the father was behind the murder. Of course, once this information came out, there was a whole pool of evidence to support the father’s innocence.
These mistakes are heavy and can so easily be avoided by outsourcing your law enforcement transcripts to the right company.
Advantages of Outsourcing Your Law Enforcement Transcription Services
Whether it’s transcribing a routine traffic report or a highly sensitive suspect interview, all details in law enforcement transcription can not be missed.
Hiring an in-house transcriptionist is always an option. You can train the transcriptionist, give feedback efficiently, and supervise them. However, this option comes with a handful of extra costs like paying a salary and benefits. Equipment is expensive — you have to buy a computer, a headset, an ergonomic desk chair, just to name a few. On top of that, every so often, the equipment needs to be replaced. Programs and hardware are in need of constant updating, as well.
And making your officers do it could hinder ongoing investigations as law enforcement professionals are busy enough without piles of recordings to transcribe.
As you saw in the case studies above, law enforcement transcription errors can cause havoc in the legal system and potentially ruin lives. That’s why, when reviewing your transcription options, you should consider outsourcing the job to a reliable transcription provider.
Many law enforcement offices are now seeing the value in outsourcing their transcription needs — it’s affordable, it’s fast, and it’s consistently reliable.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at how outsourcing transcription can benefit you.
Security is what it all comes down to when outsourcing your transcription. The right provider follows a chain of custody rules and regulations, including multiple features like 256-bit encryption for data transfers.
If the provider takes the time and resources to become CJIS compliant, you can rest assured that they are serious and vow to do everything in their power to keep your data safe.
Higher Accuracy Rates
Most US-based, native English speaking transcription providers guarantee 99% accuracy. How is this accuracy rate so high? Law enforcement transcriptionists are trained in this field. They’ve studied the lingo, they have experience, and they are provided with the best tools and equipment, helping them do a good job.
Good transcription companies don’t skip the editing stages. First, the transcriptionist goes over their work and edits. Next, the document is sent to a quality assurance team for a second and third round of edits. They sift through, catching errors the transcriptionist may have missed to give you back the best version of the document possible.
Police officers deal with so much on a daily basis. After a long shift of patrolling and attending incidents, they understandably want to get the paperwork done as quickly as possible so they can get some rest. This can lead to rushed transcripts and lower accuracy.
On the other hand, when you outsource your transcription, the files are transcribed by people who do this as their career. They work regular hours, leading to more focus and efficiency.
Affordable for Anyone
Outsourcing transcription is not outrageously expensive. You’ll save a lot of money on salaries, benefits, equipment, etc.
The average cost for law enforcement transcription is $150 to $5.00 per audio minute to put it into perspective. The prices depend on whether it’s verbatim or non-verbatim transcription, the number of speakers, the turnaround times, and the quality of the audio file.
Law enforcement transcription and medical transcription generally cost more than other transcription types because of the extra costs the company needs to deliver for being CJIS and HIPAA compliant.
Here’s an example of our law enforcement transcription pricing at Ditto Transcripts LLC:
We implemented these categories to set dividers between the prices.
- Category A is a single or one-on-one interview. It can be traffic reports, case notes, crime scene reports, and more.
- Category B includes interviews with a total of three people and allows significant noise in the background. Some common examples are suspect interviews and testimonials.
- Category C allows for files with four or more speakers with audio that’s hard to decipher. Undercover wires, panel discussions, conference calls, and focus groups all fall under this category.
It’s really important to refrain from using transcription providers that offer pricing that’s way below the average. They may be savings costs by not being CJIS compliant or sending your files off-shore to get low-cost labor.
Deadlines Are Met
Transcription providers are there to make your life easier by meeting your deadlines. The average turnaround time is 3-5 business days, and many providers can complete transcripts in as little as 4 hours with a rush rate.
Of course, the provider must have enough staff on-hand to achieve the fastest turnaround. Holidays are also considered. A good transcription service will do everything they can to help you meet your deadlines.
Time for More Important Duties
Studies show that officers who experience less stress at work perform better at their jobs, have lower turnover, and overall positive attitudes towards their career. It’s no doubt that eliminating transcription from police officers’ daily routine has many benefits, including reserving time for more important things. The time could be allocated to getting more sleep, giving more attention to victims, and recording more detailed incidents.
One of our case studies highlights the benefits the Arkansas State Police experienced after switching to outsourcing: In 2012, the Arkansas State Police investigators started outsourcing their transcription after 15 years of in-house transcription. They discovered that outsourcing police transcription increases job satisfaction, creates time to do more important things, and saves money in the long-run.
“Choosing a cloud-based transcription tool had a huge impact. Using law enforcement transcription has provided us with many benefits.” — Arkansas State Police.
The Arkansas State Police is an excellent example of what law enforcement agencies are experiencing all over the US when they outsource their transcription files.
How to Choose the Right Law Enforcement Transcription Service Provider
Are you convinced you should outsource your law enforcement transcription? If so, choosing the provider is the most tedious part. Some companies offer attractive prices, while others provide robust security features. Some offer both. The truth is, there are too many options available to make a choice without clear guidance.
We’ve made a checklist of everything your law transcription provider needs to have to be the most viable option for you.
- Accuracy rates
The accuracy rate should be no less than 99%. A guarantee is also useful in case the transcript comes back with more errors than expected.
Look for the accuracy claim on the provider’s website.
A legitimate provider always shares its accuracy rate upfront with prospective clients.
- 100% US-based and native English speakers
Using a 100% US-based, native English speaking provider ensures the accuracy of your transcripts. While off-shore transcriptionists can do a good job, they may have difficulty with jargon and unclear words, causing accuracy issues.
- Flexible turnaround times
Different options for turnaround times should be available. The provider needs to adapt to your schedule if you suddenly need a rush file.
- Thorough security measures
CJIS compliance and secure file transfers are vital factors while choosing a law enforcement transcription provider. A non-CJIS compliant provider can put your confidentiality at serious risk.
Providers should be open about their security and encryption methods. You should also be able to obtain criminal background checks of the staff handling your files upon agreeing to sign a long term agreement.
- Robust Insurance
Insurance protects you and the provider in case an incident occurs. Ask the transcription company what kind of insurances they offer and if they have general liability and cyber liability that covers both yourself and them.
The three main types of insurance to look for are General Liability or Business Owners Policy, Workers Compensation, and Professional Liability insurance. The provider should have all of them.
- Honest and transparent contract
If a contract is necessary, it should declare the exceptions on both the client’s and the provider’s end. The contract needs to be easy to cancel, with no strings attached in case you’re unhappy with the transcription results.
Ditto Transcripts LLC offers a contract for clients who feel more secure having it. We also accept clients on a project per project basis for those who don’t want to sign a contract. Either way, we believe it’s really up to our client’s preference, and we don’t pressure any signatures.
- Established business
Good results in transcription and excellent customer service come with experience. The law enforcement transcription provider you choose should be years in the making, with reviews, case studies, and testimonials.
Look on Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yelp, and similar sites for reviews. The provider’s website may also have a case studies section where you can see their work involving previous clients.
- Fair free trial
How do you know if a provider is right for you if you don’t try them first? Free trials allow you to experiment without spending money.
Most free trials are 14 days long. That’s plenty of time to dip your feet in and get a feel for the provider.
Downloadable PDF of Questions to Ask the Law Enforcement Transcription Provider
We made a downloadable PDF of the checklist above. You can use this when comparing providers and as a list of questions to ask before choosing.
Choose the right law enforcement transcription service: Over to You
How will you choose to do your law enforcement transcription? While it might be tempting to consider in-house or off-shore transcription, it may be unreliable for this industry, since the transcript’s accuracy can change the context of an entire case.
Sending your transcription files to a reliable law enforcement transcription service guarantees accuracy, provides fast turnaround times, and is affordable for your law enforcement agency. At Ditto Transcripts LLC, a Denver, CO transcription services company, we match you with a law enforcement transcription specialist for the best possible accuracy. Check out our law enforcement transcription page for more information and pricing.