09 Sep 2023

Associated Press collabs with Lede AI to launch Knight-funded AI tool to automate police report production

A months-long collaborative AI development project between Lede AI and the Associated Press finally saw the light of day in mid-August at the annual Online News Association conference in Philadelphia. 

Lede AI was excited to be at ONA  in person to meet folks and also learn about the other 4 projects, which were all developed in collaboration between the AP and university students.

Lede AI was the only commercial vendor involved in a project.

Automating police reports… to a point

The code developed for all five projects will all be open-sourced and available for anyone to build on top of and adapt to their needs. 

The work we did uses natural language generation to automate the process of preparing police blotter reports for editing and final production. A collaborative team from Lede AI, the AP, the Brainard Dispatch and students at the University of Missouri School of Journalism worked hand-in-glove to deliver the project.

“For years we have been manually going through Brainerd area police blotters and pulling information from them, formatting them and publishing them — a process that can be extremely time consuming. It is our hope that by using AI we can more quickly select and upload the information we wish to publish and save ourselves up to hours of time a week in the process.”

-Matt Erickson Editor, Brainard Dispatch

The source data were scanned PDF’s of paper police blotter reports obtained from law enforcement. The Public Safety Reporting System uses a combination of Python, CSS, JavaScript and HTML to read the PDF and produce an editable text-only output that speeds up production by eliminating manual transcription.

Renee Richardson of the Brainard Dispatch was quoted in the AP’s presentation as saying, “Reporters are constantly tasked with doing more and more, but rarely are they given more time. This use of AI does just that. It gives them time back in their day to work on all the other aspects of their jobs, from adding video to taking photos, adding links and social media, to covering multiple beats and getting to more stories.”

A human in the loop

The subjects of a police report usually just had one of the worst days of their lives, and there’s reason to be careful with information received from law enforcement. It’s one side of a story which often won’t flesh itself out until much later. 

For those reasons, the project scope was to remove the clerical work of producing the report, but stop well short of publication.

Download the full AP presentation deck and read more about the AP’s initiative to support local news adoption of AI.

Recent Posts

14 Jun 2023
Scoring Big with AI: Analyzing the Explosive Growth of High School Sports Reporting at Richland Source

The results from the 2022-2023 high school sports season are in, and they’re clear as can be. In every metric, …

Read More
09 Mar 2023
Lee Enterprises Uses Lede AI to Publish Thousands of Game Summaries in a Dozen Markets

Nobody was talking about Chat GPT when Lee Enterprises automated a part of their high school sports reporting with Lede …

Read More
13 Feb 2023
Forum Communications Choose Lede AI to Cover High School Sports in South Dakota

Lede AI is  excited to welcome Forum Communications as a new customer. Forum will use Lede AI to supplement and …

Read More

Journalism & Robots

Sign up for our monthly newsletter for the 5 things you need to read to stay on top of AI and local news.