Digital Transformation Drives a New Search Warrant Process for Indiana Police
Written by Dermot McCauley   

Digital transformation radically changes how customers, employees, partners, and others work together in critical business processes such as new bank account opening, insurance claim handling, citizen benefit enrollment, healthcare patient registration, and more. In business, resulting efficiencies promise to increase profits and reduce operating costs. However, for court systems and local police, the transformation means much more than efficiency and cost savings.

As the busiest county court system in the state of Indiana, Marion County Superior Court recognized how streamlining its search warrant process could enable faster and more accurate services in the best interest of public safety. By digitally transforming how officers, judges, and others work together in the issuing of search warrants, the county is better handling its more than 4,000 warrants annually—with officers requesting and receiving search warrant approval right from their police vehicles.


Defining the Need for Digital Transformation

Amitav Thamba, chief technology officer at Marion Superior Court, explained, “In the past, officers had to physically track down a judge who could review and grant the warrant request. This typically involved traveling to our central Arrestee Processing Center (APC) to connect with a judge. If an officer was at the outer limits of the city, it could take almost half an hour just to reach the APC, possibly even longer depending on traffic conditions. Then the officer still needed to communicate with the judge, get the warrant signed and printed, and return to the scene to serve the document. We recognized the value in replacing this labor-intensive, time-consuming process with an economical and user-friendly digital option.”

Time saved can make all the difference between letting an alleged criminal go and putting them behind bars. For example, if an officer pulls over a motorist suspected of driving under the influence and needs a warrant to conduct a blood test, there is a short window of time when the test can be administered before the blood alcohol concentration diminishes and the opportunity for prosecution evaporates.

Digital transformation drives clear improvement and efficiency in this setting. “Our DUI taskforce is working more effectively than ever,” said Thamba. “When an officer stops an individual suspected of driving while intoxicated, instead of potentially waiting hours for a search warrant, they can submit an electronic warrant request, then drive the suspect to the hospital. Usually, by the time that officer has reached the hospital, the warrant will have been approved and they can have the blood test performed without delay.”


Working with technology integrator BerkOne and using Kofax software, Marion County digitally transformed its search warrant process. This smart, secure process enables law enforcement officers to digitally request and receive approval for search warrants from their vehicles’ computers.

How Does It Work in Marion County?

Marion County’s electronic warrant request and approval processing system is Indiana’s only 24/7 digitized warrant system. It was implemented by technology integrator BerkOne using Kofax software. With the new system, law enforcement officers complete an electronic warrant form—containing a submission page and the warrant itself—and submit it via email from their vehicle’s computer. The email content and any attachments are sent securely to a dedicated inbox, then imported into a central repository. The system then automatically extracts key information such as the submitting officer’s name, and the date and time of the submission, before entering the item into a review queue. Clerks and judges are automatically notified via email when a new warrant is awaiting their review. If a submission in a clerk’s queue is not processed within 10 minutes of receipt, the clerk receives another email alert. Similarly, judges are given 25 minutes to review and approve or deny a warrant. Once this time period has elapsed, the job is automatically assigned to a secondary judge, who is notified by email and given 10 minutes to complete the review.

Officers are kept in the loop as well. The digitized warrant process sends automatic updates to the submitting officer at various points throughout the case — notifying them when their submission has been received and when it has been added to a judge’s review queue.

The system is flexible. For example, if a judge requires additional information to process the warrant, this can be requested directly from the submitting officer. Officers can complete an updated submission form and submit it and other required documentation via email to a separate inbox dedicated solely to updates. Any new emails and attachments are automatically linked to the original submission, and the judge can complete the case review using the new information. Once a warrant has been granted, the system creates a final PDF document, comprised of a cover page summarizing the submission details, submission form, the warrant itself, and a return form. After the officer has served a warrant, the automated warrant process ensures that the officer delivers the return form to the APC to confirm that this step has been completed.

In Marion County, this new electronic warrants system has reduced approval time from hours to an average of 18 minutes. Paperwork is dramatically reduced and, because officers are kept updated throughout the process, their administrative time is minimized and they can spend more time protecting citizens.

Defining Digital Transformation

Without a deeper understanding of the potential and practicalities of digital transformation, many police and courts systems may be stopping short of achieving optimum efficiency. Technologies such as email and secure cloud environments are certainly useful in any modern business or public administration environment, but these tools are often used only to move or store data rather than to deliver smarter, more effective processes. In contrast, digital transformation puts in place intelligent processes that are flexible, automatic, fast, and consistent.

Digital transformation especially adds value by doing this in what we call the “First Mile” of business—that is, the information-intensive interactions that create or destroy business value in critical processes such as new bank account opening, insurance claim handling, citizen benefit enrollment, healthcare patient registration and, yes, search warrant issuance. For police, these critical First Mile interactions are often based on citizen-focused processes and involve the officer, the citizen, and many others. These processes need to be fast, thorough, efficient, and comply with required procedure, and must provide a straightforward experience for all, even while participants are under stress. Marion County’s electronic warrants system is a case in point—delivering digital transformation in a First Mile process that is radically more efficient and effective for all people involved.

All businesses are different, just as all judicial and law enforcement agencies work a little differently from one another. Achieving and sustaining the benefits of digital transformation requires a digital business platform that can be implemented alongside existing systems, and that is flexible enough to adapt in the future to changing circumstances. Marion County’s search warrant system works in parallel with existing systems, and provides officers, judges, and others the benefits of digital transformation without disruption to current technologies and systems with which these key people are already familiar. A best-practice platform for digital transformation is versatile, and allows for easy customization and integration with current technologies employed. Open architecture permits this versatility while enabling comprehensive capabilities that can be deployed at a pace that works for the people who use the automated system. Time-intensive processes are simplified and errors are reduced in the field—creating opportunities for better service and more productive use of an officer’s time on duty. Improved quality of life for the judicial team is another side effect, with better managed processes and more flexible ways of handling a round-the-clock workload.

Digital Technology Makes a Difference

“We knew that there had to be a better way to manage search warrant processing—one that would free up our law enforcement and judicial officers to focus on more important duties,” said Pauline Beeson, director of the Marion County Arrestee Processing Center. “When you take into consideration the travel time and cost, and the impact of having an officer essentially off the beat performing an administrative task, it added up to a great deal of wasted time, effort, and money.”

“With our new system, officers no longer have to drive around to track down a judge or wait around for a warrant to be granted. Going digital also dramatically reduces the amount of paperwork that our clerks must process,” she explained. “Similarly, our judges benefit from a better work-life balance. In the past, law enforcement officers would often converge at the APC to ask a certain judge to approve a warrant. Today, once a warrant request is entered into the system, it is randomly assigned to a judge on call. We’ve also distributed tablet devices to judges, so they can check warrants whenever they are on call. Not only has this resulted in a more predictable workload for judges, the more flexible way of working has allowed us to reassign court personnel to other areas, as judges no longer have to be physically present at the APC around the clock.”

For Marion County, this all adds up to value – for police, judicial staff, and citizens, who are better served with more efficient, consistent, and error-free processes. As many as 1,400 officers across the county’s 16 law enforcement agencies are empowered with this technology, demonstrating speed, efficiency, and improved overall visibility and control of search warrant processing. Digital transformation is delivering smarter law enforcement, enabling officers to react faster and more accurately in the best interest of public safety.


About the Author

Dermot McCauley is Vice President of Platform Product Marketing for Kofax, Inc. Dermot drives the product strategy and roadmap of the Kofax digital business platform, a unified portfolio of Kofax products that delivers digital transformation for Kofax customers. Dermot has held President, General Manager and other roles in a variety of high-growth technology companies and is a graduate of Imperial College, London. Connect with Dermot via LinkedIn, Twitter, or via This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

 
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