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How to Get Accurate, Cost-Efficient Law Enforcement Transcription


Professionals in police departments, security firms, law firms, courts, and government agencies all rely on law enforcement transcription services to effectively do their jobs. This saves time, helps with the submission of accurate evidence, builds stronger cases, and reduces costs. But how does something as seemingly mundane as law enforcement transcription make such a big impact on the legal system? What equipment does an organization need to obtain reliable transcription? What should professionals take into account when considering legal transcription outsourcing? This guide is here to answer these questions.


What is Law Enforcement Transcription?

The law enforcement industry produces a significant amount of audiovisual materials that need to be turned into searchable text to enable more efficient work. 


Examples of Law Enforcement Transcription

Legal transcription companies work on a wide range of projects, from court hearings and depositions to fire reports. One area with a massive demand for services is police department transcription. Police transcription covers investigation reports, surveillance audiovisual materials, victim testimonies, witness statements, suspect interrogations, patrol reports, traffic violations, accident reports, 911 calls, and arrest reports, just to name a few. But why do legal and police transcription services make such a big difference in this important line of work?


Why Law Enforcement Transcription Services Can Make or Break a Case

In law enforcement, a very small detail can mean the difference between evidence that is accepted or dismissed in court. It can also be the differentiating factor between investigators discovering a key clue to solve the crime, or missing it altogether. Although the accuracy of documentation is critical, officers are rarely in a position to perform this function properly on the scene. Using law enforcement transcribers takes a huge load off their shoulders, and lets them focus on what they do best.

More specifically, legal transcription outsourcing saves hours upon hours of desk work, which law enforcers would otherwise need to do themselves. It also costs police departments far more to pay for police officers to sit behind a desk to transcribe, or even hire in-house law enforcement transcribers than to pay to have the transcription work outsourced by a professional service provider. After all, these companies work around the clock to qualify transcribers and ensure the absolute accuracy of their final product. 


How is Law Enforcement Transcription performed?

Legal transcription companies often offer 24/7 services, so that authorities and organizations can receive their necessary documents as quickly as possible. That often means on the same or following day for urgent cases, although other cases may take longer. To ensure timely and accurate service, companies work hard to find and qualify the best law enforcement transcribers, a process that involves many factors. Often, the transcribers that are hired have prior experience in the domain, as transcribers must be familiar with a large number of industry terms to make the process efficient, fast, and cost-effective, without compromising on quality.

Also, due to the sensitive nature of the work, transcribers are often exposed to content that isn’t easy or comfortable to hear, and it’s important for them to fully understand what they’re getting themselves into. For the same reason, transcribers usually go through full criminal background checks before they can begin working. They’re also typically required to sign strict NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) to ensure confidentiality. It is highly recommended to verify that your law enforcement transcription service provider adheres to these guidelines so that peoples’ safety and authentic case outcomes are not compromised.


How Law Enforcement Transcription Equipment Impacts Police Departments and Other Legal Organizations

Both transcription companies and law enforcement organizations need to priorities high-quality tools for accurate and cost-effective transcriptions. Here’s why.


Equipment Recommendations for Law Enforcement Organizations that Want Accurate Transcription

For law enforcement transcribers to provide fast and accurate transcriptions, legal authorities and organizations must provide them with high-quality audio. While it is possible to efficiently transcribe lower-quality audio files, it takes longer and costs more, and accuracy is often more challenging to guarantee. Therefore, providing high-quality recorders and dictation tools for your department. Team members can record via smartphone apps, on the computer, or using surveillance equipment such as cameras. That said, it is also important to ensure the legal transcription companies you consider have an efficient toolbox that can guarantee high-quality work.


Equipment that Smart Law Enforcement Transcription Companies Leverage

Note-taking apps, noise-canceling headphones, and foot pedals that allow transcribers to rewind and fast forward the audio are a great start, but if there is no usage of advanced digital tools the transcription process will likely take longer. The best transcription systems rely on the most important factor for accuracy: human intelligence. Consider what happens when you empower human intelligence with automatic speech recognition (ASR) and artificial intelligence (AI). When a transcription company uses automatic speech recognition, it becomes easier to understand who is speaking, even if there is no video. This way, the chance of mixing up two witnesses’ voices, for example, significantly decreases. Similarly, when a transcription company uses artificial intelligence, the levels of accuracy and efficiency are enhanced because AI technology is all about getting better the more you use it.

At first, the company behind the technology teaches the software by feeding it with data such industry terms, prior court cases, book titles, judge names, and an abundance of additional information, so that the software can instantly recognize as many details as possible from audio files. While the software transcribes audio files at unprecedented speeds, human law enforcement transcribers review the automated text and make any corrections. The software then learns from its mistakes, gets smarter, and makes fewer errors with each future use.


For agencies that are considering outsourcing law enforcement transcription, it’s important to ensure your provider remembers the power of human intelligence. Keeping human intelligence at the forefront and empowering it with smart technology is bound to decrease both department costs and stress levels, as a very tedious aspect of the work becomes simplified. 

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Will AI Solutions Replace Stenographers?

Let’s start with a basic, but important question: What is AI? Essentially, it’s the broad discipline of creating smart machines that can perform tasks that are reminiscent of human capabilities such as recognizing objects, texts, sounds, speech, and solving different types of problems. Another more technical term for AI is machine learning. 

AI is often mentioned as being superhuman in terms of its capabilities, so a quick reality check on what AI can and can’t do wouldn’t hurt. Two decades ago, IBM designed a program called Deep Blue, a software that was able to defeat world champion Garry Kasparov in a chess match, a feat that shattered the way people thought about machine capabilities. Fast forward to 2018, where another huge success in the domain took place. AlphaGo, designed by the DeepMind group in Google was able to defeat the world champion in “Go”, a much less rigid game than chess. It was predicted that it would take many more years for a machine to beat a human in this type of situation, but it happened. 

But which situations result in AI underperforming? What is different about those tasks, compared to a task where the AI excels? The difference is real-world knowledge. For example, accurately identifying an image requires an understanding of how things exist in reality, such as how objects look when they’re rotated in three dimensions. It’s a totally different set of skills than logic-based problems like chess or Go. For situations that involve real-world knowledge, humans maintain a huge advantage over machines. 

Therefore, in the world of court reporting, we’re faced with a dilemma: How can we still leverage machine capabilities in a domain that is obviously dependent on knowledge of the real world? The answer lies in the hybrid model, combining the strengths of both artificial and human intelligence for optimal results. This involves deploying both machines and people, each in their own element, to carry out tasks in the most efficient way. This is done by assigning the AI the easier, more repetitive tasks, which it can perform accurately, quickly, and for a low cost, and leave the more difficult, complex and creative tasks for highly skilled individuals to work on.

Let’s dive into the example of legal transcription in greater detail, and how both humans and machines are involved in the process. A computer-generated transcript can be produced using speech-to-text technology. However, in the legal domain, there are often complex and industry-specific terms mentioned, meaning the computer may mistranscribe some of these terms. That’s where the element of human expertise comes in. Human transcribers can go over the automatically-generated text and make any necessary corrections. Legal transcription is a perfect example of the fusion of artificial and human intelligence, as the computer does most of the simple work, with human expertise coming in later to perform tougher terminology and context-related corrections. 

Even in spite of complex subject matter, there are ways to ensure that automatically produced transcripts are of high quality. The last decade has seen tremendous advances in speech recognition due to huge amounts of data becoming available. Developments in machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks have enabled significant improvement, although a gap of understanding still remains. Then there is the issue of audio elements. If there is difficult audio, it’s challenging to obtain accurate transcription. Similarly, if the speakers have accents that the machine wasn’t previously introduced to it will not perform at its best. 

The best way to minimize these issues and ensure the highest level of precision is to train the machine on as many elements as possible, most notably on taxonomy. This is where AI really shines. In the domain of court reporting, if the topic of the hearing is known in advance, such as a medical issue or an insurance claim, then this data can be fed to the AI. This will bring in the necessary terminology, have a specific model for the case and, consequently, produce much higher accuracy for these terms than a human, who likely will not be particularly familiar with these concepts.

Beyond the process of transcription, AI can be practically applied in a variety of tasks related to court reporting. Think of a live court reporting session. Suppose there is a need to go back to what someone said earlier in the proceeding. A stenographer would have to search their notes for his statement, while a digital recorder would have to quickly scan the log notes, hoping they wrote something relevant. On the other hand, an AI program could simply search for the phrase that is entered and find the exact place in the audio where it was stated. Even if the original transcription contained an error, the technology would allow searching the audio itself, which could then be played back. 

Let’s look at another scenario. It’s the digital reporter’s duty to make an accurate record of the court proceeding, so if someone speaks unclearly, they must mention it. This is something that can sometimes go unnoticed by a busy human but is easily detected by a machine that can pick up on it and alert the recorder. The same goes for going off the record, ambient noise, and overlapping conversation. All of these scenarios can be detected by machines which could then alert the reporter.

Therefore, going back to the original titular question: Will AI replace stenographers? The short answer is no, as human expertise is essential to work together with technology. However, in order to maximize the use of their unique and specialized skills, stenographers should target situations where technology cannot be applied, such as scenarios where there is no digital setup. 

The rise of AI technology has significantly impacted almost every aspect of daily life and nearly every professional industry. AI offers distinct advantages and strengths in many domains, and legal is no exception. In particular, AI and machine learning technology have the potential to achieve faster transcription turnaround and a high level of accuracy for court reporters, as well as assist with other elements of a court proceeding.

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