Digitalization – It’s Not Just Change, It’s Transformation

When Police Agencies and the Courts speak of the way forward they point to their desire to better serve the community, and very often they will refer to the changes they are making in order to do so. 

But what is change, and is change enough?

Within the context of these public conversations a good definition of change would be “a response to external influences, where modifying day-to-day action achieves desired results.”[1]

An example of such a change is underway in Ohio, where the Guernsey County Probate/Juvenile Court has started “digitizing active and archived paper dockets and case information with a hosted online index.”[2]  Judge David Bennett has stated “it is my hope that once this project is completed, the public will find it more convenient to search our court records and review their contents.”[3]

This project is an appropriate and positive response to the public’s need for better transparency and information flow, but this change in existing practices falls short of true transformation, which can be defined as “modifying core beliefs and long-term behaviors—sometimes in profound ways—to achieve the desired results.”[4]

Change is about dealing with things that have already happened, such as making improvements to the current methods of providing a service.

Transformation is about dealing with things that haven’t happened yet, such as creating entirely new methods of service delivery.

Change?  Allowing employees to work from home during the pandemic.

Transformation?  Building a post pandemic workplace where employees work in both the office and from home in order to reap the benefits of both settings.

Change?  Employing bulk mail-outs to reach as many people as possible.

Transformation?  Email.

Change?  Police Officers making electronic copies of their hand-written notes after the fact, so that the information captured in them is more useful and accessible to others.

Transformation? Capturing all information electronically the first time through the process of digitalization.

This process involves using digital devices to electronically record each step of an officer’s response to a call for service in the same way that their paper notebook would, but digitalized information is instantly reviewable, non-alterable, immediately sharable, and gathered more quickly and accurately than hand-written notes.

By relying on hand-written notes police agencies are generating massive amounts of information every day that will have to be changed into digital records eventually

If instead they transformed the way that this information was collected they could avoid settling for just change, and instead focus on achieving strategic goals such as increased transparency, accountability, and professionalism. 

York Regional Police in Ontario, Canada, provides a great example of the benefits of this approach.  In the words of Chief Jim MacSween, his agency is now “utilizing the latest technology to modernize our police service and create efficiencies for officers that ultimately benefit our community.  We’re pleased to partner with DMI on this innovative solution, which transforms our current paper-based process.”[5]

Chief MacSween is referring to IMP eNotes, a multi faceted electronic solution created by Digital Mobility Inc. (DMI), which allows officers to use their smartphones to create notes, statements, and reports anywhere, and to share that information in real time with the people who need it the most.  Instantly.

Agencies employing IMP eNotes will save time, save money, and be better positioned to focus on strengthening relationships within the community by providing them with better service.

That’s not just change, that’s transformation, and it is the agencies that most fully embrace transformation in all its forms that will have the most success in serving their community and building the public trust.

[1] Change vs Transformation: What Are the Differences?, John Palinkas, Updated on: June 14, 2022, CIOinsight online post

[2] Probate/juvenile court receives grant to digitize records, Ohio News July 31, 2022, online post

[3] Probate/juvenile court receives grant to digitize records, Ohio News July 31, 2022, online post

[4] Change vs Transformation: What Are the Differences?, John Palinkas, Updated on: June 14, 2022, CIOinsight online post

[5] York police leave pen and paper behind for digital note-taking technology, Newmarket Today, January 13, 2022, online post