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Equip a police force with modern, collaborative software to help them stay out of the office? This was the revolutionary thinking behind the Richland Police Department’s rollout of Microsoft Office 365, as officers traveling back to the station to file reports and access data meant they were spending a lot of time at their desks rather than in the community.
“We looked for a better way to share information so that officers could spend more time in the field and be more effective there,” says Tony Striefel, lieutenant CCIP, Professional Standards and Technology Division at the Richland Police Department.
The Richland police department has sped past every tired cop show cliché—officers spending hours at the station typing up their handwritten notes or searching through dusty document boxes for case files—to become a digital, fast-moving, collaborative force. Officers now file reports while they are mobile—digitally to the cloud—collaborate on them in real time from the field and hand them off electronically from shift to shift. They use Skype for Business Online to instant message, call or video chat from the scene of a crime. Each team in the department, from traffic safety to detectives, uses its own SharePoint Online site. The police department is even using Power BI to analyze data and spot trends.
“In fact, our culture is shifting,” continues Striefel. “We’re all communicating more—officers and others are sharing documents and getting more creative and frequent with their teamwork. Instead of one problem getting tackled by just one person, multiple people can now help evaluate and resolve issues because it’s easier to collaborate. As a result, we’re improving both the speed and quality of our responses to incidents.”
Teamwork was always a priority for the Richland PD, but the nature of the job could sometimes make it challenging. It took time to make handwritten notes from the crime scene digital, and even after they were digitized, it could be cumbersome to share that information across the department. This could slow down decision-making and sometimes even crime solving.
“For example, if we were working on a series of auto thefts, our analyst team would need access to officers’ reports, and the delays involved meant we could wait weeks instead of just a day or two for the team’s final analyses,” Striefel says.
Office 365 has also given the department greater insight into its costs, which helps with planning and staffing and ultimately makes better use of taxpayer dollars.
“We can understand more clearly how crimes affect the community and our budget and take appropriate steps,” says Striefel. “For instance, if we see burglaries increase, we can anticipate the amount of overtime salaries and detective time we’ll need right then. And we also can reallocate resources in the coming months’ budgets to avoid running into problems while still maintaining top priorities.”
Just as important as cost management, Office 365 has helped the Richland PD adapt its crime-solving processes and respond to citizens faster.
“The more the department embraces Office 365, the more information officers have available to us from wherever we happen to be,” says Sergeant Darryl Judge, a Field Operations/Bomb Squad officer. Judge says he’s used Skype Meetings for video calls and screen sharing from the field to help the team quickly assess the seriousness of a situation, and he’s even shared images of bombs straight from the scene.
“Staying visible and available out in the field has a positive impact on community members and supports our mission far better than working in the station,” Judge says.
Read the full story to learn how the Richland Police Department benefits from using Office 365.