If you commit a crime in Stockton, CA, expect the police report to be around forever. This permanent retention policy is great news for investigators, however paper-based reporting posed serious problems for the Police Records Department, which had to store, manage and retrieve more than 1.5 million documents stored onsite (a mere 5 years’ worth), and older reports stored on microfilm. Led by Chief Mark W. Herder, Stockton PD has 388 sworn officers and 291 non-sworn civilian staff generating and processing an average of 70,000 annual reports for California’s 12th largest city.
“In 2002, there were reports everywhere — all in hard copy,” recalls Ron Birchard, Supervising Police Records Assistant at the City of Stockton Police Department. In addition to being costly, offsite storage was not a possibility because security standards wouldn’t allow outsourced staff to go through boxes to retrieve the individual report.
Meanwhile, records assistants were also kept busy copying handwritten reports and attachments and distributing them to the appropriate approvers and agencies. “Each night, they had to sort a six- to 12-inch stack of reports by DR number and file them,” says Birchard. In 2003, there were 75,000 crime reports in Stockton, averaging three to four pages in length. Birchard estimates that 60% to 70% have subsequent reports and more than half have additional documentation (“attachments”) from outside sources. So it was less than welcome news when the Records Section learned that staffing was going to be reduced by 20% due to budget cuts and transfer of staff to a new substation.
Before joining the Police Records Department, Birchard had been evaluating ECM (enterprise content management) technology such as document imaging for the Code Enforcement Department. He had found that electronic records would be acceptable if they met state criteria for inalterability, proof of review and access control. He believed that a product he had seen at the 2002 AIIM show in San Francisco would meet those criteria as well as the needs of the users in the Record Department. “I looked at lots of products that day, but nothing else met our needs as well as OnBase,” states Birchard. “And nothing else could compare to the price and ease of use. We have people who don’t use the system every day, so when they do use it, it has to be easy.”
OnBase is enterprise-class software that combines integrated document management, business process management and records management in a single application. The goals of the project were to reduce staff time needed to process arrest reports for the District Attorney; eliminate filing and associated costs; process requests for attorneys, outside agencies, and internal customers; process non-arrest reports faster and provide access to current and previous reports to all divisions within the department and the District Attorney’s staff on request. Based on the objectives, the Department was able to fund the project with grant money.
Provides DA with 24/7 Access to Incoming Reports
Concurrent with its OnBase implementation, Stockton PD also implemented electronic report creation from Tiburon Inc.’s RMSTM, a record management system for law enforcement. Officers can complete electronic forms, either at PCs in the office or on laptops in their cars. The completed reports are reviewed by the sergeant for compliance with reporting standards and verified by the Records Department staff.
Using the OnBase Virtual Print Driver module, importing the final version of the report into the OnBase repository is as easy as printing. Additional documentation is scanned into OnBase at either the main office or the northern substation using fi-4340 document scanners from Fujitsu Computer Products of America and Ascent Capture software from Kofax Image Products, Inc.
Between electronic reports and scanned images, about 800 to 1,000 documents are entered into OnBase each day. These documents are matched by DR number (a unique identifier for that report), so anyone with appropriate privileges can search the repository for documents with that number and retrieve them all immediately.
Not only does this reduce the demand on Records staffers, it has significantly improved response times to the District Attorney’s Office. Reports are immediately available 24/7 to the DAs, who can enter a DR number or date range in a custom query to retrieve new reports. A status code indicates which reports have been printed. In the past, DAs relied on twice-daily deliveries of hard copy documents.
Increases Productivity and Security, Reduces Hard Costs
“OnBase is easy for both the regular and occasional user,” notes Birchard. “We were able train division staff in less than 30 minutes, and the first employee trained was able to scan 1,000 documents in the first hour.” The risk of reports being lost between the Records Department and DA’s Office is virtually eliminated and misfiled reports have been reduced by more than 90%. As time permits, staffers are working on the back file of existing records.
In conjunction with support from authorized OnBase solution provider NEKO Industries, Birchard has found that OnBase is also easy to use from an administrative standpoint. “I can set up new documents or users easily,” he says. “The ability to set security is important too.” Easily configurable security settings allow the Records Department to preserve confidentiality when an employee is involved or there is a high profile case that attracts interest. The ability to view the document history allows the Records Department to verify who has accessed a record.
OnBase security features and the ability to easily place strict limits on access have prompted other areas of the City of Stockton Police Department to consider OnBase solutions. Personnel and Training , Internal Affairs and Code Enforcement are all evaluating potential uses for ECM technology.
Improved productivity made it possible for the Records Department to absorb the decrease in staffing. “If it hadn’t been for OnBase and Tiburon, I don’t know how we would have survived the staff cuts,” admits Birchard. The combination of requiring e-mail requests from the DA’s office and their access to OnBase eliminates the need to manually locate and pull reports and re-file them in response to front counter and DA requests.
The OnBase solution has also eliminated duplicate requests. With the manual process, the DA’s Office sometimes sent a hard copy request form for a report as well as faxed a request and called to ask for the documents. If three different people received the various requests, they often duplicated efforts pulling, copying and then re-filing, not to mention locating the document if it was waiting to be re-filed.
This more efficient and secure solution also delivers hard dollar benefits in terms of reduced storage and filing costs. “We were using 12 cases of paper a week,” says Birchard. “Now six cases last for two weeks. By the end of this year or the middle of next, I will have saved enough just in paper to cost justify the solution.”
At a Glance
By implementing electronic report management and ECM (enterprise content management) technology, the City of Stockton’s Police Records Department was able to absorb budget cuts through improved productivity, reduce lost/misfiled documents and increase responsiveness.
- Reduced paper consumption by 75%
- Reports available to District Attorneys 24/7 through custom queries
- Improved responsiveness to requests for records
- All Department employees from the Chief to the Patrol Officer have access 24/7 to reports and all related attachments
- Combines the ability to impose strict security standards while making records readily available to multiple authorized users
- Reduced misfiling
- Required only about 30 minutes of staff training
- Maintains an audit trail of document access
- Fujitsu Computer Products of America fi-4340 document scanners
- Tiburon Inc. RMS™ law enforcement record management software