Police Reports (Paperwork)

Executive Summary: Using technology to streamline and reduce paperwork involved in a DUI arrest can decrease the amount of time needed per traffic stop and therefore increase the number of stops and arrests an officer makes during a shift. Less time spent on paperwork/reports can also help increase DUI enforcement by officers who were once deterred by lengthy arrest processes. Reducing their workload on the administrative side can be an effective measure taken to maximize the amount of time spent enforcing the law.

More Detail: Interviews with law enforcement officers, and a number of research studies have identified paperwork as a primary hindrance to DUI arrests. Documenting an arrest can take several hours of an officer’s time and require as many as 13 different forms, taking valuable time away from other enforcement activities. On average, 45 percent of arrests take one to two hours, but half of the officers surveyed in a recent report said it takes in excess of two hours. Such time-consuming documentation can discourage officers from making impaired driving arrests. It can also lead to frustration, errors or incomplete details in reports that can limit a prosecutor’s ability to obtain a conviction. In cases of hardcore alcohol-impaired drivers refusing BAC testing, accurate paperwork is particularly vital because the officer’s observations and interaction with the suspect become the primary sources of evidence (Simpson and Robertson 2002).

Reducing paperwork associated with the arrest, processing through computer technology and the use of fewer and shortened forms can be productive ways to increase patrol availability and officer productivity (Jones et al. 1998). A DUI enforcement van, equipped with evidentiary breath test equipment and sometimes even a magistrate, can dramatically cut arrest processing time in checkpoint or blanket patrol operations (Hedlund and McCartt 2002).

Technology in the field is often under-utilized. A coordinated electronic record keeping system with information readily available could help officers more easily identify offenders and enforce penalties. Some police departments in Arizona, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina and Wisconsin obtain information from driver’s licenses by swiping them through bar code or magnetic stripe readers. Police in West Des Moines, Iowa, have mobile computers with bar code readers. When the license is swiped, the driver’s information is stored and can be uploaded at the end of a shift (Simpson and Robertson 2002).

Another way to utilize technology in reporting DUI arrest information is with the LEADRS system. LEADRS, Law Enforcement Advanced DUI Reporting System, is an electronic information reporting system for the law enforcement community. It aims for standardized and simplified DUI reporting to complete arrest information in a shorter amount of time. This system was developed in Texas and is currently in use in several other U.S. states and also in parts of Canada. More information can be found on their website: www.leadrs.org/.


Suggested Audience: Enforcement, Prosecutors


Works Cited:

  • Jones, B. January 1998. In-vehicle videotaping of drinking driver traffic stops in Oregon. Accident Analysis and Prevention 31(1): 77-84.
  • Hedlund JH, McCartt AT. Drunk Driving: seeking additional solutions. Washington, DC: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety; 2002.
  • Robertson RD, Simpson HM. DWI system improvements for dealing with hard core drinking drivers: adjudication and sanctioning. Ottowa, Ontario: Traffic Injury Research Foundation; 2002.

Additional Resources:

  • CJ Harris – The New Technology of Crime, Law and Social Control, 2007
  • Making Sense of COMPSTAT: A Theory-Based Analysis of Organizational Change in Three Police Departments James J. Willis, Stephen D. Mastrofski, David Weisburd.
    Law & Society Review 41 (1), 147-188. (2007)
  • Ping Yi, Bin Ran Streamlining Chinese Highway Accident Data Acquisition, Communications, and Analysis. Transportation Research Record Volume 1846, 31-38, 2003.
  • Dunwort, T. Information Technology and the Criminal Justice System, 2005
  • Police Information Technology: Assessing the Effects of Computerization on Urban Police Functions. Public Administration Review 61 (2), 221-234. Volume 61 Issue 2 Page 221-234, March/April 2001.