A change to the software will soon help streamline the way MPs work with the Morrison County Sheriff’s office.
Morrison County’s Sheriff Shawn Larsen and IT Director Amy Middendorf contacted the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday asking them to purchase Winscribe voice recording software. The digital recording software is also used by the prosecution and social services and enables the seamless and timely transmission and transcription of dictated statements, reports or interviews.
“Every time we take a testimony from someone, we make a report, things like that, we use a tape recorder,” said Larsen.
The Philips software currently used by all three departments will no longer be supported as of September. The initial up-front cost to implement Winscribe is $ 14,108 for the Sheriff’s Office, along with $ 6,412 and $ 2,625 for the District Attorney and Social Services, respectively. After the first year, annual maintenance and support costs are $ 500 for the latter two departments and $ 1,995 for the sheriff’s office, which would take on the contract.
The program works via a mobile phone app. For example, a deputy can receive a statement on site or dictate a report. It can then be downloaded from anywhere in the office and office staff can work on transcribing the voice recording immediately.
“Here we no longer have to dictate a report, find the hardware, paste it, and then wait minutes, sometimes hours, for it to download, and then wait for the report to be typed in,” said Larsen. âThat’s where Amy comes in. I can tell you that we did some numbers with Winscribe. We tried it out with some of our deputies too. They were able to download the app on their phone, they tried it out in the field and everything seems to be going pretty smoothly and the guys liked it. “
Larsen said the software is especially useful when MPs are responding to a situation in places like Hillman or Motley, from which it can take 30 to 45 minutes to get to the train station. In the case of a domestic assault, for example, MPs wanted to question the suspect, the victim, along with witnesses. Thus, it provides convenience to both law enforcement agencies and those involved in the incident.
Commissioner Randy Winscher asked if recording a statement or dictating a report directly onto the phone and broadcasting it could pose security problems or loss of information. Larsen said the software has been checked and is already being used by several law enforcement agencies.
âThe app itself is safe,â said Middendorf. âIt has been reviewed by the BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension). It’s allowed by the criminal justice system. When I’m in a dead zone – because we all know Morrison County has dead zones – I turn on my app, there is a big big button that is green and I think if they tap on it it will be red so they know they are recording. So, just like with your recorders today, all you have to do is make sure that you push the button and that it is recording. If they are in a dead zone, it will simply be stored on that local phone until they reach a place where there is service. “
The voice notes recorded in the app are only sent back to the station if this is done manually by the deputy. It also allows photos taken at the crime scene to be attached to the speech document.
Commissioner Greg Blaine asked about the financial aspects of the technology. Namely, whether other systems had been investigated and how the cost of the system compared to the county cost of the Philips software.
Middendorf said the sheriff’s office annual maintenance fee at Winscribe is actually less than the $ 2,400 it paid for Philips.
This amount only included the hardware, and the price rose whenever a software update was required. She said the last time that happened it was an extra $ 1,300.
âIt’s almost like jumping up and down and getting excited because this is one of the first technology upgrades we’re doing and it actually costs the same cost as before, or maybe even a little less than before forward to the future, âBlaine said. âIn the conversation we had, Commissioner Winscher, that every time we upgrade with this technology, it costs us more and more money. Well, we were wrong. “
Regarding whether or not other software options were being investigated, Middendorf said when Sheriff’s Office Support Supervisor Mary Swenson first made her aware that the Philips service was no longer being supported, she reached out to other counties and asked what they use. She said that almost all of them said they use Winscribe and that they were happy with the service.
CEO Mike Wilson had questions about the technology aspects of the service.
“Suppose you are dictating something out in the field and it’s on your phone and it goes to the office, what happens to it on your phone?” He said. âWill it stay there forever? Or do you have access to it? “
Middendorf said the voice document and all attachments were not actually saved on the phone, but in the app via the cloud. MPs can then delete it from their app, but it could still be accessed by office workers if the transcription needs to be checked.
She added that this was one of the aspects of the program that they found particularly appealing.
“If you take the photos and things, you can now share photos and are not physically on the phone,” said Middendorf. “You’re in the app, which is in a secure cloud that has been reviewed by law enforcement agencies.”
Wilson directed her to bring it to a regular meeting for approval.
Letters from the Board of Commissioners:
On other matters on Tuesday, the Morrison County’s Committee of Commissioners:
â¢ Received notice from District Auditor / Treasurer Chelsey Robinson that 7,700 courtesy letters had been sent informing residents that they would receive a second envelope in which to refund the second half of property tax payments. Some people didn’t get the second envelope because of an oversight by the county tax seller;
â¢ Discussed changes recently made to restore normal open meeting laws after changes were made to enable virtual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic; and
â¢ Discussed a request from a member of the public to close the Lincoln level crossing on Holt Road. Improvements to Aster Road would be made by the county as part of a possible agreement between the county, the Scandia Valley community and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. A public hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, August 26th at 7 p.m. at Scandia Valley Township Hall.
The next meeting of the Board of Commissioners will be on Tuesday, July 13th at 9:00 am in the boardroom of the Morrison County Government Center. There will be no meeting on Thursday, July 6th.