Top 10 Issues
The size of the agency doesn’t matter. Big or small, these are the most common issues we consistently see in law enforcement records management operations.
#1 Failing at Culture
You have to see the big picture, not just your part of it. Getting an entire agency to build the importance of records management into its fiber requires work. It starts at the top. Furthermore, most records managers don’t realize they’re charged with ensuring the agency overall is managing information correctly, not just the Records Unit. This is the person who should lead the effort to create an organizational culture which takes records management, report writing, NIBRS, retention, disposal, and quality control seriously.
#2 Keeping Everything
Operating under the mindset that law enforcement information should never be destroyed is counter to good government. This creates liability and increases costs. If you still have it, you have to manage, pay for, and potentially release, the record. Do you really need the noise complaint reports from 10 years ago? Or petty theft reports with no serial numbers from 20 years ago? This is what leads to rooms full of old boxes and DEMS full of unnecessary and costly data.
#3 No Retention Schedules
This is what causes #2. Time and again we encounter agencies which have never done a disposal because they don’t know what to keep and what to destroy. That’s what retention schedules are for. The longer you go without them, the further the can gets kicked down the road and the bigger the boxes get, the more storage and memory gets used, and the less and less someone wants to tackle the problem.
#4 No Training
#5 Failing to Change
If you’re proud of your Lektriever machine- well….it’s 2022. Unless it’s an archive record from a long time ago, paper is a thing of the past. It’s time to move forward. Today’s information should be managed digitally from creation to disposition. Holding your job hostage by insisting on doing business your way only makes it harder (and hurts the agency and the citizens we serve).
#6 Information Proliferation
Do you know someone that scans a record, files the original, then sends hard copies inter-office… and keeps their own copy just in case any of the other 3 get lost? The efficient functioning of an organization is largely dependent on how well it manages its information. Unnecessary duplication costs time and money.
#7 Data Entry
If you’re entering someone else’s record, you’re creating it twice- doubling the record and the work required to make it. We cringe when we hear agencies say…“We would rather pay a clerk $20/hour than an officer $35/hour to enter reports”. So $55 for the same information is better?
#8 Not Letting Records Do Their Job
“No civilian is going to make corrections to my report”. Actually, that’s their job (in part)- to ensure the department is producing information which is accurate, error-free, and well-written. This is a big myth that we debunk in our training seminars. We’ve heard too many bosses say “if the report looks bad, it’s a reflection of the officer- let them look bad in court.” It’s a reflection of the agency and the person at the top. Culture is everything. See #1.
#9 No CAD/RMS/MFR
In 2022, we all should have technology infrastructure in place that enables sound information management and good business processes. It’s what helps prevent #1 through #7 above. While budgets are tight, some vendors have stepped up to the plate and developed cost efficient business models and tech platforms. There are solutions for every need and for every budget.
#10 Paper, Paper, Paper
How Do You Fix This?
These are issues that can be fixed. Besides knowing what to look for and how to fix them, it requires a certain savoir faire; finesse; a vision; an understanding of the law enforcement culture and its operations.
After an in-depth assessment of the current operations, we’ll obtain input from top to bottom to garner insight into the agency’s goals, objectives, points of friction and barriers to success (as an “outsider” we have the upper-hand in overcoming them). Then, we move to action and get the agency into compliance and operating smoothly with better workflows, process, technology and performance. See how…
Download Top 10 PDF
“No civilian in Records is going to tell me how to write a report!”
Get more articles like this one in The Records Room.
Sign up below.