Category Archives: Industry News

Helpful Hints for Recording Interviews & Dictating Reports

Net Transcripts is the leading provider of confidential transcription and translation services for law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. While we pride ourselves on our 98.8% Accuracy Guarantee, high quality recordings that are clearly audible will always result in more accurate transcripts. With this in mind, our team has assembled the following list of tips and tricks for producing the best possible recordings for transcription.

Officer Dictation

An officer dictates his report.

Microphone Placement

Whether your recording takes place in an interrogation room or in the field, your device will be capturing audio through a microphone. For dictated reports with only one party speaking, best practice is to keep the microphone between six and twelve inches from your mouth in order to produce clear audio without distortion.

For interviews and other recordings with multiple parties involved, you might be tempted to move your device back and forth as each party speaks; however, this can create unintentional noise and variations in volume which can make participants difficult to understand. Instead, try to hold the recorder very steady throughout the interview or place it on a stable surface, preferably at an equidistant point from each person. Interview rooms are often equipped with built-in recording devices, but they may not always be situated in the best locations – often concealed in the walls or ceiling. Try and utilize a secondary recorder if possible, placing it as described above. These techniques will help keep input volumes consistent and will result in a more accurate transcription of your recording.

Background Noise

Throughout the course of an investigation, it is very common for law enforcement interviews to be conducted outdoors. Unfortunately, this often leads to unavoidable background noise which can hinder the clarity of your recordings. To minimize this effect, try to utilize natural barriers to block noise as much as possible. For example, if traffic noise is a concern, position your subject with their back toward the street, and keep your recording device directly in front of them so that their body blocks some of the noise from being picked up by the microphone.

Even in a controlled, indoor environment, extraneous noise can still impact the audibility of a recording. Be aware of your surroundings, including air conditioning units, blowing vents, refrigerators, radios and televisions. Try to avoid shuffling papers and dragging objects like chairs or tables, as the sound from these sources will make your recordings more difficult to understand clearly. Whenever possible, keep doors and windows closed, and try to limit access to your recording space in order to avoid interruptions.

Crosstalk & Rapid Speech

When multiple parties are speaking simultaneously, it can be difficult to discern what any one person is saying. Try to refrain from talking over your subjects, and if you can, restrict your interviews to one party at a time in order to cut down on crosstalk and unintelligible speech.

Dictated reports can be greatly improved if you speak clearly and annunciate. When you fly through your words, your tongue and lips can’t keep up with your mind, so you drop important vowels and consonants, causing your listeners to miss your meaning. Speak in a loud, clear voice, and take your time with each sentence rather than thinking about what’s coming next.

Troubleshooting Equipment

Be sure to check the battery in your recording device before you get started to prevent the loss of vital recordings. Test new devices and familiarize yourself with the controls before deploying them in the field. Your department’s IT staff can be a valuable resource for preventing potential issues before they occur.

If you’re looking for a recording solution that won’t break your budget, Net Transcripts offers a Dial-in Dictation Line as well as our Mobile App for iPhone and Android devices, both at no additional cost to our customers. Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of outsourcing with Net Transcripts.

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BODY-WORN VIDEO: ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Police and law enforcement oversight in the modern era is an increasingly complex and popular topic, with all signs pointing toward the widespread adoption of body-worn cameras for officers and other personnel who regularly make contact with the public. A recent poll shows that 76% of Millennials in the United States support mandatory body-worn cameras for police officers. Meanwhile, this technology continues to gain popularity throughout the public sector, including administrators at a school district in Virginia who are set to begin recording interactions with students.

camera

Photo courtesy of Reuters/Al Seib/Pool

The benefits of body-worn video include more plea deals and less court time, a reduction in citizen complaints and allegations of misconduct, and increased accountability for both officers and subjects of investigations. However, there are many challenges inherent in adopting new technologies, such as financial concerns surrounding purchasing agreements with vendors, as well as costs associated with data storage and equipment maintenance. Despite the popularity of these programs nationwide, many citizens also have concerns about the implementation of policies and procedures regarding when and how recordings are captured, and the degree of control officers have over these devices.

Another major consideration for agencies utilizing body-worn cameras is the question of access to recordings; in other words, who gets to see the footage, and when? Some city and state governments have made these recordings public almost immediately, while others have exempted body-camera footage from public records requests. Several states have begun passing laws regulating the release of body camera videos, although many officials question whether legislation on such matters is even necessary, citing the desire of different agencies to forge their own policies and guidelines to meet their individual needs. Ultimately, decisions on when and how to release these videos will have to balance the need to comply with public records requests while simultaneously protecting sensitive information, such as the identities of adult and child victims, witnesses, and other parties present during police contact.

Agencies looking to solve problems related to data storage and the release of videos can turn to transcription as a viable solution. Net Transcripts is the leading provider of confidential transcription and translation services to law enforcement and criminal justice agencies throughout the nation. Our professional typists will accurately transcribe body-worn video recordings, producing valuable evidence which can be easily redacted to protect sensitive information while satisfying the need for disclosure. We can also translate any foreign languages spoken in a recording, providing valuable context to the events captured by a body-worn camera or other recording device. Please contact a representative for more information regarding the quality, security, and user-friendliness of the services provided by Net Transcripts.

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MYRTLE BEACH POLICE PRESENTS: DON’T GET GRINCHED!

Police in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina have created an entertaining video to deliver some helpful holiday tips:

Hopefully, these safety tips will keep The Grinch away for everyone this holiday season, but a few criminals will inevitably manage to steal someone’s Christmas. When holiday disasters strike, police departments across the nation can count on Net Transcripts’ fast, reliable and accurate service to help solve cases quickly and efficiently. Officers and administrative staff can spend less time typing and more time spreading holiday cheer.

Contact us today to find out how Net Transcripts can help your agency to lower costs and save valuable time by transcribing your dictated reports, recorded interviews and more!

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GROWING ETHNIC POPULATIONS PRESENT COMMUNICATION CHALLENGES FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT

Recent turmoil across the globe has led to an increasing migrant population in the United States. The Obama administration is planning to relocate 10,000 people from Syria alone in the next year, which some local government officials see as a potential societal and economic boon. While there has been some pushback from several groups of concerned citizens throughout the country, the general consensus is that an increasing number of refugees will be starting new lives in American cities both small and large.

Refugee women learning English

Refugee women learning English as part of employment readiness training run by the International Rescue Committee in Tucson, Arizona. Photo courtesy of Peter Biro/IRC.

New residents often equate to new challenges for law enforcement, as a recent report from the Center for Immigration Studies indicates that 21 percent of U.S. residents speak a foreign language at home. The largest percentage increases from 2010 to 2014 were among speakers of Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Chinese, Hmong, Gujarati and Persian. Speakers of Spanish and Tagalog also had large numerical increases during this time period. Meanwhile, sanctuary cities across the nation refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials in turning over immigrants who are in the country illegally, even as a recent report by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement found that 58 percent of illegal immigrants still at large between January and September of 2014 had prior felonies or violent misdemeanors.

 

With our vast network of resources for virtually any language, Net Transcripts is a proven solution for law enforcement agencies requiring transcription and translation of foreign language recordings and other communications obtained throughout the course of investigations. We can also translate any public notices, announcements or other written documents from English into a variety of languages in order to improve communication between public safety officials and emerging ethnic communities. Contact Net Transcripts today to learn more about the various translation and transcription services we provide.

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Fighting Crime from the Sky: Drones and UAVs for Law Enforcement

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are being used by more police departments. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are being used by more police departments. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Across the nation, drones are taking off.  The devices – also called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs – are popular with hobbyists for piloting and capturing aerial footage, and have been positioned by corporation giants such as Amazon as a method for delivering goods to consumers. While drones have also been used for illicit activity such as smuggling drugs past border patrols or airlifting packages to inmates over prison fences, the devices also have imminent potential as a tool for law enforcement operations.

Drones can be an eye in the sky for search-and-rescue, providing an advantageous viewpoint while protecting the search team from hazardous conditions. The aircraft can also quietly and efficiently search for individuals at large – such as escaped inmates – and provide intel to officers necessary for search warrants. For SWAT team operations, piloted drones can enter dangerous situations ahead of officers to gather visual intelligence, or deploy non-lethal munitions to incapacitate violent criminals.

Law enforcement agencies nationwide are already using drones in limited capacities. In February of 2015, the Michigan State Police became the first agency certified to use drones anywhere within state boundaries. Typically, law enforcement use of drones must be approved through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which awards a Certificate of Authorization for a designated area only. The state police agency has already purchased one drone for $158,000 and is training to deploy the device to scout for missing individuals, as well as to take pictures of traffic accidents, fires and disasters for use in investigations.

Other law enforcement agencies are working to prepare policies for use of UAVs and testing newly-purchased equipment. The Jackson, MS Police Department recently displayed the devices for a demonstration in April, but is still considering the implications of purchasing and putting the UAVs to use, according to the Police Chief. Another early adopter in October of 2014 – the Grand Forks Sheriff’s Department (ND)– was the first law enforcement agency given permission to fly the devices at night. The fleet of four aircraft has been used in 11 missions so far, primarily to provide a new perspective on traffic accidents and in one instance, to hunt fugitives thought to be hiding in corn fields. Internationally, UAVs have been used in policing in India, Sweden, and other countries. The UK’s Sussex Police has been awarded an amount roughly equivalent to $380,000 to try out the devices, heralding the technology as a safe, effective intelligence-gathering tool in situations where patrols are dangerous for the officers.

Police use of drones has gathered controversy that sometimes keeps the devices grounded, however. Civil rights groups have opposed the use of the aircraft by law enforcement without proper guidelines, citing concerns over abuse of mass surveillance of citizens. As demand for the devices for crime-fighting grows, police agencies will need to develop protocols for use that address these concerns.

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Recent Officer-Involved Shootings Urge Acceptance of Body Cameras

An officer's body-worn camera records a traffic stop. (Photo Courtesy: AP Photo/Jim Mone)

An officer’s body-worn camera records a traffic stop. (Photo Courtesy: AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Within a day of the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old man shot in the back while fleeing Officer Michael Slager, the North Charleston mayor vowed body cameras for the city’s entire police force.

Video evidence captured by a bystander shows Slager dropping his stun gun and firing eight shots at the fleeing man, who had just stood up from a tussle on the ground. Slager had initially stated that he feared for his life and shot in self-defense after Scott attempted to take his weapon, but the video tells a different, more irrefutable story – one that would have been lost without a camera present.

It isn’t the first time officials have pushed for body cameras to capture officer’s interactions in the wake of a controversial officer-involved shooting. The August 2014 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO incited protests and violent riots nationwide, and pulled law enforcement under the spotlight of intense scrutiny. Officer Wilson claimed he shot in self-defense after a struggle over his weapon, but in the absence of video evidence to support him, investigations were drawn out as witnesses offered different and conflicting accounts of what had transpired.

Ferguson Police Department officers appeared on the streets wearing cameras within a month of the controversial shooting. Prominent body-worn camera creator VIEVU said sales for the technology increased 70% in the aftermath of Ferguson, as departments rushed to reduce the risk of a similar controversy.

State law enforcement in South Carolina will receive 50 body cameras for testing over the next two weeks. While Governor Nikki Haley maintains that issuing the cameras is unrelated to the Walter Scott shooting in North Charleston, SC, the Department of Protective Services assures citizens that they are providing the latest body-worn video technology, training and evidence management to officers “in light of recent high-profile incidents.”

The White House has also shown its support for body cameras with a funding project for $263 million toward purchasing over 50,000 of the devices for police departments nationwide.

Body-worn video cameras help keep officers accountable for their actions, but also exonerates them in incidents where citizens make false accusations.

For departments currently utilizing body-worn cameras or agencies who have just adopted the technology after recent news, Net Transcripts offers transcription of video captured from nearly any device. Receiving transcripts of video can accelerate investigations and aid in evidence management. Contact us to learn more about transcription of body-worn video.

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Crowdsourcing Platforms Aid Agencies in Managing Evidence

Crowd

Photo via Flickr

Public safety officials will soon have eyes in every crowd, as new evidence collection platforms arm citizens with the ability to submit video and photos to aid in disaster response and investigation.

Tip lines and other crowdsourcing solicitations have long encouraged the community to contribute to law enforcement investigations, but new technology has enabled departments to receive and process large amounts of digital media evidence from smartphones and other devices.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, authorities solicited the crowds for pictures and video to aid in immediate investigation of the area, but the resulting influx of media was overwhelming. In response, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) sought to improve the efficiency of departments to manage data collected during emergencies of this nature.

A collaborative team – LASD, Amazon Web Services, and cloud-storage company CitizenGlobal– launched the Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository (LEEDIR) in April of 2014. The platform is free to use by law enforcement and relief agencies to collect, store, track and organize crowdsourced digital evidence from large-scale emergency events.

For citizens, photos and videos of the requested event can be submitted through LEEDIR’s website or mobile application. Events eligible for LEEDIR must involve over 5,000 people or coverage of 5 square miles, and cross multiple jurisdictions. The eyewitness platform has already served this year to request and process photos and videos of riots in Southern California that injured over 50 officers and citizens.

Crowdsourcing and community safety tool VizSAFE also offers first responders a cloud-based solution to receiving digital content submitted from users. Visual reports sent through the VizSAFE mobile application are tagged with the user’s location, so police monitoring the event are aware of areas that need attention. Departments have encouraged community members to download the application in advance of large public gatherings such as parades.

For evidence collected during crowdsourcing or investigations of any size, Net Transcripts offers secure transcription services of recorded audio and video. Our transcriptionists are highly skilled in producing accurate transcripts, even from a muffled recording or audio with background noise. For more information on expediting the investigative process by outsourcing transcription, visit Solutions for Law Enforcement.

 

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Supreme Court Upholds Warrants for Cellphone Searches

Searching a mobile phone requires a warrant. Photo via flickr

Searching a mobile phone requires a warrant. Photo via flickr

In conclusion of a two-month review, the Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that warrants will be required by law enforcement to review and search the contents of cell phones seized from arrestees. A typical cellphone’s ability to store a wealth of personal information likens it to a personal computer, placing it in a different category than items such as wallets and protecting it from initial search upon arrest.

PoliceOne Chief Editor Doug Wyllie details the implications for law enforcement investigations in his article on the Supreme Court decision. While obtaining a warrant to search a phone might delay the process, he notes, law enforcement officials will not be inordinately hindered in their investigative efforts. Especially in exigent circumstances where evidence, lives or officer safety are at risk, warrants can be obtained in a timely manner and will help evidence stand in court.

To read more about the cases that prompted the Supreme Court ruling, view our previous post on Warrants for Cellphone Searches.

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Future Forensics: New Developments in Evidence Technology

Forensic Science Investigations collect  DNA and fingerprint evidence. Photo via West Midlands Police

Forensic Science Investigations collect DNA and fingerprint evidence. Photo via West Midlands Police

DNA evidence is widely used in criminal investigations to prosecute offenders and exonerate the innocent. The power of DNA often extends beyond the lab and into the courtroom – due to what some call the “CSI effect,” a reference to the popularity of crime scene investigation TV shows, juries have come to expect incriminating DNA testimonies to decide the fate of the accused.

The future of forensics and crime scene investigation is set to catch up to its sensational TV counterpart, as new DNA technologies promise faster investigations and more comprehensive criminal identification techniques. Analysis technology called “Rapid DNA” is already outfitting police departments with the ability to analyze samples within just 90 minutes, and can be performed without operation by an expert technician.

The Criminal Investigations Division of the Palm Bay Police Department (FL) has been working with a standalone Rapid DNA device to process evidence since 2012, and is now using DNA profiles obtained with this new technology to prosecute a suspect in a 2013 theft case – the first use of Rapid DNA in a criminal investigation. Rapid DNA also poses potential for screening offenders during the booking process, as a DNA profile collected during an arrest can be matched against a database for an almost instant link to DNA found at the scene of the crime – a process that currently takes 30-60 days.

Researchers are also developing methods to construct 3D face shape as predicted by variations in different genes. This technology could give investigators the power to digitally recreate a criminal’s face based on DNA samples.

In addition to DNA, fingerprint analysis is another powerful tool for investigation and identification. Recently, experts from the Dutch Forensic Institute announced their discovery of accurate fingerprint dating, a technique that measures the deterioration of bodily chemicals left on objects to determine the age of a print. While current methods can only analyze the fingerprint age within 15 days, forensic investigators will one day be able to date prints from years before.

Collecting DNA, fingerprints and other evidence from crime scenes is what the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC) calls a crucial “first phase of the justice process.” The NFSTC Crime Scene Investigation Guide – downloadable as PDF or for e-readers – was composed by crime scene experts and released in 2013 as a tool for law enforcement. In addition to detailing principles and procedures for evidence collection, the guide describes interviewing witnesses as a crucial step in an initial response to a crime scene.

Interviews recorded either at the scene or police station can be sent to Net Transcripts for transcription, and promptly returned for use in investigations. Visit Solutions for Law Enforcement for more information on transcription of investigative recordings.

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Peace Officers Memorial Day Honors Sacrifice of Fallen Officers

Remembering slain officers in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of Ted Eytan.

Remembering slain officers in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of Ted Eytan.

Today, flags fly at half-staff and thousands gather in Washington, DC to honor the memories of police officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The 33rd year of the Memorial Services falls on the Thursday of National Police Week, which concludes on May 17th.

“Just as police officers never let down their guard, we must never let slide our gratitude,” President Obama stated in a White House Press Release. “We should extend our thanks not only in times of tragedy, but for every tragedy averted — every accident avoided because a patrol officer took a drunk driver off the streets, every child made safer because a criminal was brought to justice, every life saved because police officers raced to the scene. In other words, we must show our gratitude every day.”

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, there have been 42 Line of Duty Deaths in 2014, including Detective John Hobbs of the Phoenix Police Department in early March. Our deepest sympathies go out to the families, friends and coworkers of these men and all other peace officers who have lost their lives.

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