Vancouver police budget about $100K to find records system

By Katy Sword, Columbian staff writer

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The Vancouver Police Department is in the market for a new software program.

Known as a records management system, the program in question manages police reports, police-related public records requests and court documents related to the department.

Vancouver is currently part of the Regional Justice Information Network, a 43-agency consortium that also includes the Portland Police Bureau. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office left the group last year, leaving Vancouver as the sole Washington contributor.

The sheriff’s office withdrew from the program less than a year after it joined the group, citing extensive problems with the software. The city has experienced those issues, too, and could join the agencies that have left the association.

Remaining with the consortium is an issue also because it limits communication between local agencies, Vancouver Assistant Police Chief Chris Sutter said. Vancouver is looking for a new system to share information regionally, “because we know crime knows no bounds or jurisdictions,” Sutter said.

“In part, having a large consortium of agencies is a great advantage, because you have more easily shared information between agencies, but it can also be harder to effect change on a system when there’s so many different stakeholders involved,” he said.

To find a new system, the city is contracting with a Florida-based consultant, PRI Management Group.

“We’ve hired a consultant to help guide us through the needs assessment, RFP (request for proposal) and to help guide the police department while bringing in their national expertise in police records management projects,” Sutter said.

The city will pay $85,000 for the project, as well as $12,540 for necessary travel to the city and a $15,000 contingency fund for any additional costs that may occur. The contract was approved by the city council Nov. 6. The city currently pays $154,000 annually to be in the consortium.

There’s no guarantee the city will leave the consortium and switch to a different records management system. There’s also no guarantee that Vancouver police will join the system used by Clark County.

“What we’d really like to do is be very thoughtful about doing our research, doing our homework and make sure whatever RMS system is eventually selected really meet the needs of the city,” Sutter said.

“We don’t want to just go with what’s easy, we want to make sure we’re looking at the long-term needs and getting the very best service delivery and giving back to our community.”

Sutter added that over the course of the next year, his staff will consider new software vendors and likely make the switch in January 2019.

“If we can cut down 40 or 50 percent of (officer’s) time that they’re now spending in a police station writing and get them back on the streets, that’s real hours back to our community that we have law enforcement in the field,” he said.

If a new system is selected, it would be presented to the council before officially making the switch. Implementing a new program could cost between $750,000 and $1.3 million.