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November 2020
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New digital recording technology to benefit UK police

The recording, transcription and storage of police interviews has always been a time-consuming and expensive process, says Simon Jones, Sales and Marketing Director for Indico Systems UK. New technology, however, is helping to boost efficiency and cut costs in this important area

Many people outside of the police force will be surprised to hear that a large number of police forces in the UK are still using audio cassette tapes to record and play back even their most sensitive interviews. Apart from the obvious problems with audio quality- especially when these tapes are played and re-played over a long period of time – there is also the risk of damage, corruption and physical loss. Not only that, but using audio cassettes for this purpose is expensive, as well, with some UK police forces spending more than £250,000 per year just on the tapes alone.

These problems are made even worse when it comes to more serious cases, since additional tapes are often used to record multiple interviews in different locations, before being played and re-played many times. Copies also need to be made for all parties concerned, often in different parts of the country, which means that important security issues are raised, as well as the deterioration of audio quality with each new copy.

For all of these reasons, many police forces have now switched to CDs or other removable media, but this option brings its own challenges. For a start, any data stored in this way – whether on a cassette tape or a CD – needs to be carefully sealed, labelled, sent to a typist to be transcribed, and then stored securely.

As a result, this approach often causes significant delays, since the whole tedious process – from interview to typed transcript – typically takes three weeks or more. Not only that, but there are once again serious security risks involved with sending such important information via an internal, albeit secure postal system.

Although it is difficult to obtain any national statistics for the number of investigative interviews recorded each year, 30,000 is normally given as an estimate for an average sized force. To comply with PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) regulations, most of these interviews require three taped copies, but many of them (especially those involving more high profile crimes) tend to be longer than average, and can therefore extend to more than one cassette.

Even applying the simplest of maths will give us a figure in the region of 200,000 tapes used per year per police force, all of which will require storing and sorting. One police force that we’ve spoken with has said they have a storage room with over 750,000 tapes filed away; one can only imagine the amount of man hours that has taken to sort and document over time.

A server based process however, such as the Indico Streaming Solution, eliminates all of these problems, and can therefore save the police a significant amount of time and money, whilst also ensuring that evidence is presented securely, accurately and safely. In addition to making high-quality digital audio and video recordings that can be stored on digital discs, digital server technology can be used to store digital copies of every police interview on a secure network, which means that there is no risk of CDs or DVDs being lost, damaged or delayed in transit.

This kind of technology, known as “straight-to-server” digital recording, is already being looked at closely by the NPIA (National Police Improvement Agency) and has been installed by Indico Systems at Teesside University on their police training course. Because the interview is recorded straight onto the server, the delays and associated costs caused by the time it takes for removable media to be delivered to transcribers (who then summarise each interview) are eliminated completely.

In 2008, Lancashire Constabulary used this kind of technology to replace traditional taped interviews with digital recording methods as part of a Government-approved pilot study. Instead of using traditional tapes, audio-only interviews were stored on a secure server that legal teams and police were able to access.

The Lancashire study concluded that up to three hours were saved per interview by using a server solution to record and store the interviews. If you multiply this figure by up to 40 interviews per day across a force, and then extrapolate those figures across the whole of the UK, you can quickly see how the police and the government could save millions of pounds and countless man hours with this approach. Not only that, but less police time wasted also means more time spent on front line crime fighting, which is good news for the police – and for the general public, as well.

For all of these reasons, plus the fact that analogue tape systems are proving increasingly unreliable, a move to digital recording, – and ultimately a server-based solution, – is without a doubt the way forward for improved efficiency, better security and lower costs.

Contact Details:
Simon Jones
Indico Systems UK
Tel: +44 (0)7850 541001

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