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April 2019
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Preserving frontline police services with speech recognition

The austerity measures have caused ripples across all sectors -including policing. The Emergency Budget and Government Spending Review led to cuts in policing budgets of around 20% over the life of this Parliament. At the same time, demands on the service continue to increase as financial discontent leads to large scale protests, such as the recent TUC march against spending cuts, hijacked by anarchists with damaging effect.

Against this backdrop, the public sector, including policing, is under unprecedented pressure to cut waste and improve efficiencies by doing more with less; an outcome which can only truly be achieved with modernisation through technology. Implementing mobile speech recognition is a key part of this efficiency drive. By enabling police to verbally record what they see and capture information whilst out on the beat, officers can be freed-up to focus on fighting crime and dealing with the public’s emergency needs.

However, this is quite an undertaking given the general consensus that the police force has been stymied by a growing administrative burden. The Policing in the 21st Century white paper by the Home Office states that -police officers should be crime fighters not form fillers”; a sentiment that was echoed by David Cameron during the General Election campaign and certainly by the officers themselves.

In general, people join the force to work amongst the community rather than behind a desk. However, that’s not to say that the police shouldn’t benefit from innovations in technology. On the contrary, we expect our police force to have access to the most up-to-date information, which can only be achieved through modern work practices.

Speech recognition is an example of a technology that has come of age, with tremendous reforming potential. It has developed in sophistication and accuracy in recent years. The latest developments enable natural, human-like dialogue so that users, with a wide variety of accents and dialects, can make themselves understood, wherever they might be, while blocking out background noise.

By capitalising on these advances, offices can achieve their goals of spending more time in the field and less time filling in forms. Speech recognition effectively reduces the time it takes to complete, edit and approve reports by 80% and could save every police officer at least an hour of form filling every day.

As field officers, the police are increasingly reliant on sophisticated mobile devices, making them ideal candidates for trialling the latest developments in this technology. So rather than make copious notes only to return to the station to type detailed reports, they can just speak their reports into their mobile device and the information will be automatically sent to the station’s servers and archived according to strict rules and procedures. Furthermore, by recording witness statements and observations immediately after an incident takes place, officers can be confident about the accuracy of their reports; which will only aid the transition from investigation to trial.

The service could also potentially allow a busy field officer to quickly look up information held on databases, such as the Police National Computer, to help with enquiries or to send e-mails and text messages to colleagues. Remote access to information would not only increase productivity, it would also equip officers with the intelligence they need to take immediate action.

In addition to front line activity, speech recognition technology can be used by the station to automate non-urgent incoming calls. At present, these non-emergency calls consume a substantial amount of time and expense each year. And yet, as much as half of these incoming calls could be handled by a ‘natural language’ call automation system.

While policing is an area ripe for modernisation, other parts of the public sector would also benefit from embracing speech recognition to improve productivity. According to a study from the centre for economics and business research, the public sector as a whole could save £13billion a year if it automated up to 60% of incoming calls. As the drive for cost savings continues with pace, expect other areas of the public sector to review how they could improve productivity through modernisation. For instance, government departments with large volumes of in-bound calls, such as social services or local authorities could reap the rewards. Similarly, public sector bodies with lots of mobile workers could benefit, including health visitors, social workers and emergency services. It’s time for the public sector to catch-up and supersede the private sector in terms of sophistication and efficiency; a leapfrog of this nature can only be achieved through investment in technology.

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