Every now and then, someone comes up with an idea that fundamentally alters things. A so-called "game-changer". I think that Commander James Schnabl, of the Santa Ana, CA Police Department may have done just that.
In an article published in the September edition of The Police Chief, Commander Schnabl asks the question,"Are Video Police Reports the Answer?" He then lays out a paradigm shift, in which the police officer's written report is essentially replaced by real-time video recording of interviews with victims, witnesses, and suspects. The written report becomes just a brief supplement to the meat-and-potatoes provided by the video.
Commander Schnabl essentially questions the status quo, in which police officers make observations and conduct interviews, distilling these into written reports describing the investigation. While recordings are made in some cases, they basically supplement the written case file. Instead, in Schnabl's process, video provides direct evidence of what the officer saw, did, and what people said. The written report is merely a synopsis that supplements the video, rather than the other way around.
The development, improvement, availability, and proliferation of personal video recording equipment makes this rethinking of police reporting more plausible. I have no doubt that body-worn recording, server-based retrieval, advancements in video technology, and improvements in archiving and storage will continue to impact police work. Schnabl's radical reinventing of police reporting may indeed be around the corner.