The following article recently appeared in Catalyst, the newspaper of Cheshire Constabulary:
RECORDING THE FUTURE
The Constabulary is leading the way in digital interview recording, with all custody suites now using the new equipment.
After a successful pilot in Blacon earlier this year the roll out is moving ahead with great success.
Cheshire is the first Force to use the technology by recording directly onto a server instead of using DVDs, and the project has attracted interest from other Forces due to its efficiency.
Project Manager John Maddock said: ‘A 21st century Police Force can no longer be seen to rely on 1970s equipment and media. Audio cassettes are becoming obsolete and more costly and difficult to obtain. Officers did not like having to manage and deal with the cassettes as it was a lengthy process looking after them, having to bundle them up and post them off to the tape library … it was all a bit of a pain.’
He added: ‘We have worked closely with the supplier [David Horn Communications] to develop a unique product that takes advantage of all the benefits of the latest media technology.’
The unique system is integrated with the Constabulary’s Niche Records Management System, which means that interviews are now digitally recorded and made available via Niche. This allows officers to go on a computer and play back the recording there and then.
The interview recordings are stored on a secure server at HQ called Centera, where they can be managed and stored in accordance with Management of Police Information guidelines.
The risks of losing or damaging vital evidence are reduced because of the way storage is managed. Copies are only produced on DVD if directly requested to the Records Management Unit.
John said: ‘Recordings are very secure because they can only be accessed via Niche and sensitive recordings can be restricted. ‘There are well thought-out back-ups in place if anything went wrong and a good level of support from the supplier with whom we have an excellent working relationship. They have recognised the contribution Cheshire has made in developing the product and the lessons we have learned through the life of this project will be of benefit to us as we move forward to bring efficiencies to other areas that involve digital media.’
Time and money is being saved as a result of this move and the feedback from officers, staff and partners has been positive.
The Crown Prosecution Service, defence solicitors and the courts throughout Cheshire have all been consulted to ensure their needs were taken into account, and they have all been pleased with the outcome.
Business Support Assistant Louise Johnson who has responsibility for transcribing the interviews said: ‘It is definitely better than the old system. The quality of the recordings is clearer and the fact the audio automatically downloads into Niche saves a lot of time as we no longer have to wait for the audio tapes to come over from the tape library.’
John also said people using the equipment have adapted well: ‘Officers have taken to using the recorders very quickly with no formal training. They were given a user guide and on their own initiative have successfully been able to operate the recorders so credit to them for making the changeover as easy as possible.’
The Project Team, IT Services and operational staff are now working together on developing digital interviews for vulnerable witnesses. We are upgrading equipment at nine sites in Cheshire and hope to have this completed by mid November.
Voluntary attendance rooms will be converted from cassette to digital recorders after that and this work should be completed by mid January 2014.
Cassette and DVD based interviews will then be a thing of the past and the Force will have recording procedures and equipment in place to serve us well for a long time to come.