Transcription is a core requirement for some notable industries. Law enforcement, for example, greatly benefits from the process. Transcription helps with effective file management, makes it easier for personnel to access essential records on the go, and creates an accurate written representation of audio and video files. It also takes away the countless hours and hours officers and detectives have to spend playing and replaying recordings just to get the details right doing their own transcription work.
Law enforcement agencies have two options when it comes to transcription: they can use in-house transcribers, or they can hire a transcription service provider. Today, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of outsourced vs. in-house transcription to see which option is better for different agencies.
In-house transcription means having it done inside your building with your own people,conducting transcription tasks using their own resources, personnel, and equipment. This means that the transcription work, which involves converting audio or video recordings into written text, is performed by individuals employed directly by the organization.
Let’s take a look at the positives of having in-house transcription offers.
All operational activities are kept in-house
In-house transcription keeps the process within the agency. This means that information is more secure and is less prone to privacy leaks. Urgent transcription needs can be prioritized by funneling all resources and personnel to that project. This arrangement offers the most flexibility, as the transcriptionists are under direct agency control.
More control over the process
Tailor-fit procedures can be easily enforced when transcription is in-house, ensuring everything is done as the workflow demands. This can also mean tighter quality control and customization, as transcripts can be made with specific details and formats according to the law enforcement agency’s needs.
Benefits usually have trade-offs, so let’s look at the notable disadvantages of in-house transcription.
Requires a lot of resources
There are costs associated with creating and maintaining any business activity. Transcription is no exception. It may even be more expensive to hire and put up transcription departments for law enforcement agencies because their core activities do not necessarily align with the requirements of transcription projects.
To emphasize this point, let’s break down the costs of creating an in-house transcription department.
Cost of hiring personnel
First, you’ll need to get expert transcriptionists — and in today’s job market, that might not be as easy as it sounds. A recent study found that hiring one new employee takes an average of 24 days and costs upwards of $4,000. This includes job sourcing, assessments, background checks, and other aspects of onboarding. There are ways to effectively cut these costs, but the fact is that your law enforcement agency will need to pony up a considerable amount of money if you want to hire your own transcriptionists. And in turn, those costs rise exponentially as you hire more and more people. And that’s just hiring.
We haven’t begun talking about other costs, like:
Cost of training and keeping personnel
In 2016, the average cost of employee training was $1,252. It is now 2023, when everything is more expensive, so you can be sure that the amount has increased quite a bit during the intervening years.
Aside from training, your law enforcement agency must now provide your new transcriptionists with a decent salary package. On average, transcriptionists are paid $17.43 an hour. This goes up the more experienced and specialized the person is. And that’s not where it ends; since they’re your employees, you need to provide them with benefits like 401k, vacation and sick time, medical and dental coverage, and more. This isn’t optional, by the way. Not only do state and federal laws mandate certain employee benefits, but they’re also critical in attracting the best talent on the market.
Cost of equipment and software
Aside from hiring, vetting, training, and keeping employees, law enforcement agencies must provide their transcriptionists with the equipment necessary to perform their roles and responsibilities. Computers must be able to run multiple programs simultaneously, so you’ll need one with a CPU with decent clock speeds and multiple cores (or at least hyperthreading). Headphones, tables, transcription or word-processing software, food pedals, and other equipment must be of high enough quality to not hamper productivity.
Estimates can range from a couple of hundred dollars to more than a thousand, depending on quality. And this cost is multiplied by how many transcribers you employ.
Creating a transcription department for your agency presents additional challenges. Agencies like small-town sheriff’s offices may get away with having just one or two transcribers on payroll or tap other administrative personnel to handle their small workload. Larger agencies need more manpower to cover their transcription needs, but there will be slower times when the available transcriptionists have less work to do, resulting in unnecessary expenses. Other times, the available people aren’t enough to do the work.
While there are no shortages of skilled manpower in transcription, the challenge for law enforcement agencies is finding and attracting talent. Furthermore, there is no skill and training continuity since they’ll be the first batch of transcriptionists — that is, unless the agency is willing to outsource their training.
Outsourced transcription refers to hiring external transcription services or freelance transcriptionists to convert audio or video recordings into written text rather than handling the transcription process internally. This approach is commonly used by businesses, healthcare providers, law firms, media companies, law enforcement agencies, and other entities requiring transcription services regularly.
Outsourcing, in general, has several advantages over internal transcription. Here are the most important ones:
When it comes to costs, transcription service providers have the edge. Pay-as-you-go based services allow law enforcement agencies to get their transcription work done, regardless of volume. These are a good fit for agencies with an inconsistent number of projects in a given period.
However, it’s important to remember that not all transcription service providers are created equal. Some firms may offer low prices (mostly prevalent in offshore/foreign service providers) but have no quality guarantees. Another important consideration is that law enforcement agencies may require transcripts to be certified for court use, which can only be done by U.S.-based transcriptionists.
Law enforcement agencies don’t have to worry about scale when hiring a transcription service provider because that’s no longer their problem. The important thing is that the job gets done, regardless of the volume of work. No more worries about over-hiring, over-scheduling, or not having enough transcriptionists to do the work required. The transcription provider will cover all of those concerns.
Transcription service providers offer highly skilled services (though not all do). They hire the best transcriptionists, develop efficient workflows, conduct meticulous proofreading and editing, and uphold their quality guarantees. Clients no longer need to worry about such things; they only need to send their recordings, which will be transcribed.
Specialization is another consideration. Service providers often offer a wide range of specializations, meaning work under those industries or business types is done much faster and more accurately.
Accuracy and quality guarantees
Reputable law enforcement transcription service providers often have guarantees. Accuracy is the most common, with most providers assuring at least 90% accuracy, although that’s in the low end for human transcription. Other providers offer 99% accuracy for law enforcement transcriptions, which is critical as transcription errors have led to heavy consequences for the involved parties.
Now that we’ve established the strengths of outsourced transcription let’s balance the discussion by looking at its disadvantages.
Loss of control
Direct control is lost when any business process is outsourced. This is the concession that law enforcement organizations must make when taking advantage of outsourcing’s cost-saving benefits. Since all transcription is done off-site, clients have little say regarding their process.
However, some transcription providers offer customization for finished transcripts. Optional requests like adding speaker labels, including closed captions, special formatting arrangements, and transcriptions to PDF, DOCX, or RTF can be accommodated, depending on the provider.
One of the most common issues with outsourcing any business process is the potential for data leaks. Involving another company in the workflow opens up new avenues for breaches. This fear is not unfounded; it has happened in the past and will happen again. Fortunately, these risks can be mitigated.
Transcription service providers can implement stringent security measures to protect data transfer to and from their clients. Additionally, they can comply with the Criminal Justice Information Services’ data safety and security guidelines. This should ideally be the standard, as law enforcement agencies routinely handle sensitive information. However, not all providers can attain this level of compliance, as it involves potentially large costs and strict enforcement of data security measures. Be sure to look for providers with CJIS compliance as security is a top priority for law enforcement agencies.
Which one should you choose?
Outsourcing your law enforcement transcription needs has several advantages over the in-house option, the main being cost-effectiveness. Furthermore, finding the right transcription service provider can mitigate most of its disadvantages. However, the decision depends on the law enforcement agency’s resources and requirements.