Police departments create an incredible number of unique forms to facilitate, track and document internal processes. Departments create forms to manage everything from simple leave time requests to complex response to resistance incidents.
Generally, forms exist in either a paper or fillable PDF format, each form requires a specific workflow (review and approval process), and are routed through the workflow process via in-basket, departmental mail, or email. Upon review completion, forms are sometimes re-keyed into a stand alone software program or database, and then filed.Forms have good, bad and downright ugly aspects to them. Consider how each of the following applies to the forms and processes utilized in your department.
The Good Forms are Created Out of Proven Need
The good forms are the ones that manage and bring order and process to routine everyday functions. Here are some of the key characteristics of good police forms:
- They ensure the proper documentation and meaningful review of critical incidents.
- They establish accountability at all levels through the forms review process.
- They create “paper trails” and historical records that can be easily accessed and reviewed in the future.
- They provide insights and the data necessary to evaluate individual and department performance.
- The data collected can enhance strategic planning.
- The data collected identifies training needs and allows for the evaluation of training effectiveness.
- The data collected provides insight into officer wellness evaluation and assessment.
- The data collected assists in litigation defense by providing documentation of consistency and compliance with policy and training.
- When correlated with data collected in other systems or forms, provides for early warning alerts regarding officer conduct.
The Bad Forms Have Limitations
The bad forms are the ones that take away from an officer’s time to do what they were hired to do—policing. These can be manual forms, forms that aren’t collecting the right data or that make it very difficult. Here are some of the characteristics of bad police forms:
- Forms that frequently change; design and revision is a tedious process.
- Forms that are outdated, but retained by individuals and submitted even after revised forms are issued.
- Forms that require periodic updating and resubmission for approval require manual “tickler” reminders; many times the updating/resubmission process is forgotten or does not occur in a timely fashion.
- Forms that don’t have a way to require users to fill in vital data fields.
- Forms that have a slow workflow process where forms can linger in an individual’s in-basket or email for extended periods of time.
- Forms that rely on narrative and free text fields to document vital information resulting in inconsistent data collection and analysis difficulties.
- Forms that don’t provide for the collection of all possible relevant information; therefore they’re lengthy, often several pages, and many data fields are simply marked “N/A”.
- Pre-packaged, or “off the shelf” forms that don’t take into account the unique information needs and review process of the department. Often requiring or requesting information not relevant to your needs.
- Forms that require manual re-entry via a database or stand alone software program.
The Ugly Forms Don’t Route, Audit or Analyze Themselves
Collecting data is a waste if it isn’t used. That happens more often than not due to bad processes or just no way for the information to be analyzed at a higher level. Here are some of the characteristics of police forms that have gone past bad to downright ugly:
- No one above the current level of review is aware of the form’s existence or status; chiefs and other executives are left out of the loop.
- Submission and/or review of a form is unintentionally, and sometimes intentionally, delayed.
- Forms that don’t provide an audit trail that documents creation, submission, review, requests for additional information, revision, and completion times.
- Associating a form, or series of forms, to an individual or group of employees that requires multiple file or database searches and manual analysis.
- Forms that aren’t being analyzed. Data analysis is difficult at best and usually impossible. Analysis isn’t important, until the day it is. Given the volume of data collected agencies simply don’t have the staff, time or capability of performing high level analysis and generating timely reports.
The Solution—A Flexible, Intelligent Forms System
The good news is that there is a forms system specifically made for policing that gets it right. It sits within the Arx Community (external transparency) and Arx Alert (internal accountability) products. Here are the capabilities of the Arx forms that make data collection and analysis truly work:
- User created and user revised forms that meet the specific needs of your department.
- System entry that is complete at initial creation.
- Ability to make data fields required; no more overlooked or ignored fields.
- Expandable fields that only appear when needed and reduce the length of the form to contain only the information required.
- User defined drop down menus that ensure consistency of terms.
- User defined workflow and review process that is automated.
- Notification of all personnel in the forms review chain that the form has been created and what its current status is.
- Creates an audit trail that documents dates and times, revisions and all other activity associated with the form.
- Conducts ongoing analysis of all data, correlates with data collected in other forms and sources.
- Creates alerts and notifications based on data analysis.
- Generates standard and user defined reports.
Arx provides the simple and affordable answer to maintaining the positive, improving the bad, and mitigating the ugly aspects of your department’s forms.