Blue Line

Features Technology
Regina Police Service utilize new virtual police reporting system

August 28, 2023  By Brittani Schroeder and Lindsey Hoemsen

Photo: Regina Police Service

Reporting a crime can be a stressful experience. Combine that with the potential of an extended wait time, and the experience can be downright frustrating.

The Regina Police Service (RPS) have provided a new service delivery approach that cuts down wait times, offers more options to those reporting crimes and creates meaningful work opportunities for officers requiring accommodation due to injury or otherwise. It’s called the Virtual Police Reporting System (VPRS).

The idea

In the early part of 2022, S/Sgt. Pierre Beauchesne transitioned to RPS Central Operations, which is within the Support Services Division. This division includes the detention centre, the inquiry desk unit, front line support unit (FLSU), and the court liaison officer. The FLSU is a unit where police officers who, for example, may have been injured while executing their duties, are accommodated temporarily or long term. These members with diverse abilities were seldom able to interact directly with the public due to their limitations.

In March/April 2022, S/Sgt. Beauchesne continually observed long wait times at the inquiry desk, due to the shortage of police resources. “Some complainants could wait over two hours to speak to an investigator. Due to the long wait times to see an inquiry desk member, in concert with wanting to engage those members with diverse abilities, we began looking at ways to deploy those members to the inquiry desk. We soon learned that there were legal implications which restricted the ability to have a member work at the inquiry desk who could not be immediately engaged in a situation where a use-of-force would be required,” said S/Sgt. Beauchesne.

Soon, the central operations team started brainstorming ways to engage members of the FLSU at the front desk, with the hopeful result of providing more meaningful work for the members in that unit and decreasing the wait times for citizens. “Originally, we envisioned a Zoom or Teams type of meeting, between a complainant in the lobby awaiting service and a police officer. I presented this to our executive committee, whom were very supportive. I consulted with Sgt. Jessica Gawley (NCO in charge of both the FLSU and the inquiry desk) and we began putting this concept in motion. Sgt. Gawley was able to identify what crime classes would be appropriate for this type of reporting, and Matthew Carleton and the information services team became heavily engaged in building this platform in the lobby,” he continued.

The challenges

The anticipated challenges were in the realm of technology and procedure.

In terms of technology, the thought was that while using Zoom or Teams, a complainant could easily sit and talk to an officer from a computer. However, it didn’t turn out at simple as that. “Our information technology team had to work through issues, including proper audio for the client while ensuring their privacy; how to guarantee the victim’s support person can communicate in concert with the victim—we tried both microphones, speakers and headsets; controlling the ambient environment sounds from the busy lobby area, the recording of a verbal statement, if required; the connectivity of the software, etc.,” said S/Sgt. Beauchesne.

“If we truly believe in policing by consent, perhaps it is time to give back to the community something tangible that will be appreciated and evoke enormous good will.” – S/Sgt. Beauchesne.

When identifying crime classes that would be appropriate for the VRPS, the team began by referring only specific types of frauds and scams. “We understand not every crime class is appropriate to serve through this platform, and we recognized this from the onset,” he said. In situations where the victim had documents that could be deemed evidentiary, the RPS provided a lock-box stationed on the VPRS desk that the complainant could place the documents in and secure them. The documents would be retrieved and exhibited a short time after. The team also installed a small scanner on the desk for situations where the victim had a written statement or was required to author a written statement; they could simply place the statement page(s) in the scanner feeder and the VPRS investigator could control the scanner remotely and activate it. The scanned documents would then be immediately accessible to the VPRS members’ computer for review and follow-up questions.

The launch

The conceptualization phase began in April 2022, and the initiative officially launched on June 1, 2022. The system was created using data from the service’s new ‘Waitwell’ queue management system, which had been implemented a few months prior. Through the data analytics, RPS was able to identify specific types of complaints that took a significant amount of time to report to an inquiry officer, such as internet frauds and phone scams.

From June 2022 to Aug. 31, 2022, the VPRS served 84 of 175 complainants who were victim to online frauds and telephone scams; the remainder reported in-person to an Inquiry Officer. The average time for a person to report their incident in detail to a police officer was just over one hour. This freed up roughly 93 hours for others needing to speak with an officer and resulted in shorter wait times.

The success of VPRS led to the expansion of the service in Oct. 2022 to include eight additional crime classes: online frauds, phone scams, hit and runs, certain motor vehicle accidents, neighbourhood disputes, mental health warrants, youth drug detoxification warrants, and theft of autos.

In Jan. 2023, the VPRS expanded further to providing members of the public the ability to book an appointment online, and provide their complaint of frauds, scams and motor vehicle accidents to a VPRS investigator. Members of the public are now able to report specific crimes to a police officer from the comfort of their home through platforms such as Facetime, Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, etc.

In its first year (June 1, 2022 to May 31, 2023), the VPRS Unit has taken 416 criminal complaints virtually through the platform. This is approximately 535 hours serving complainants virtually.

It’s often said that technology takes away from ‘the experience’. In this case, the Regina Police Service can say, without a doubt, they are providing a better overall customer experience for those reporting crimes at their inquiry desk. The appointment option is enabling complainants to report specific crimes directly to a police officer from the comfort of their home or office, while making it very convenient. It also continues to provide officers with accommodations and diverse abilities the opportunity to interact with the public and do what they do best: listen to our community and help bring closure to victims of crime.

Lindsey Hoemsen is the Regina Police Service (RPS) Public Information and Communications Manager. Hoemsen started with RPS in Sept. 2020 and was recently promoted to Manager of Public Information and Communications.

Print this page


Stories continue below