Published on January 26th, 2023 📆 | 2125 Views ⚑0
Vacaville City Council OKs purchase of new PD technology – The Vacaville Reporter
Following recommendations outlined in last year’s Vacaville Police Department audit, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Police Chief Ian Schmutzler to purchase three pieces of software to increase transparency and streamline engagement at Tuesday’s meeting.
In 2021, amid high tensions between police departments nationally and locally, the city of Vacaville announced an audit of the Police Department and selected the OIR Group, a firm based out of Playa Del Rey that has worked with local governments and law enforcement agencies to address issues in policing and make recommendations toward reform.
The results of the audit were released in November, which presented an overall positive review of the department, particularly in its high morale among its personnel, officers who were proud to serve Vacaville, a commitment to customer service and attention to detail in enforcement strategy.
However, 40 recommendations were made for improvements, primarily in the areas of its internal investigative processes, transparency and compliance. One recommendation in particular called for the department to “invest in a software program that would standardize and facilitate its administrative investigation process and allow for the convenient collection and storage of investigative materials.”
To move closer to that goal, the department put forth a resolution allotting $155,000 from the General Fund for the current fiscal year and approximately $60,000 annually to purchase new software.
Capt. Chris Polen said the recommendation highlighted a current need within the department.
“Our current technology possessed by the Professional Standards and Training, also known as Internal Affairs, needed to accommodate increased transparency, efficiency, responsiveness to the public and meet legislative mandates is either nonexistent, outdated or labor-intensive,” he said. “Essentially we’re not able to keep up with the demand with our current systems.”
After meeting with other law enforcement agencies, talking about their technology and viewing demonstrations of different software companies, the department identified three programs that would be a good fit for the Vacaville PD: Veritone’s redaction software, Frontline Public Safety Solutions’ internal review software and Granicus’ public records request software.
“Staff believes that by updating our technology, it will help address seven OIR recommendations, which we included as part of your staff report,” Polen said.
During reviews of body-worn camera and in-car camera footage, Veritone would be used to redact faces and anything else identifying personal or case-sensitive information in a more expedient way. Currently, Polen said it takes five employee hours for the department to go through this footage for every one hour of video needed to redact. The department typically handles about 250 hours of video and audio redaction each year.
“This software will reduce our staff time by 75%,” he said. “Currently we have about 200 hours, up to 250 hours of backlogged digital evidence that needs to be processed.”
Frontline’s Pro Standards software would be used to improve intake of citizen complaints and compliments, provide an early warning system for potential officer misconduct, allow the public to share feedback on positive and negative interactions with officers, and track and monitor use of force, vehicle pursuits and officer accountability.
“In our opinion, it’s everything OIR talked about,” Polen said,
Polen said it would also allow PD staff to track claims through the City Attorney’s Office and would provide real-time information and data graphs to the council upon request.
Granicus, specifically its GovQA software, would be used to help the PD in facilitating California Public Records Act requests.
“Last year alone, Vacaville PD had 43 in-depth PRAs (requests), and each required more than 40 hours of staff time to produce,” Polen said. “Vacaville PD had about 175 PRA report requests that also required redaction.”
Polen said the PD is planning to purchase 10 licenses so the City Manager’s Office, City Attorney’s Office and City Clerk’s office can assist tracking and executing PRA requests. The contract with Granicus would be for three years, with a cost of $23,500 for the first year, $25,145 for the second year and $26,905 for the third year.
“Everyone can see incoming and outgoing requests,” he said.
Councilman Michael Silva asked if PD staff had seen all the software in action. Polen said they had witnessed the requested software at the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, Fairfield Police Department and Sacramento Police Department.
“What we liked about all of these particular programs is that they’re customizable to Vacaville PD,” he said.
Silva also asked if there was public engagement on the software requests. Polen said the group that formed the OIR recommendations was not part of this process.
“In my opinion, it would be pretty difficult for them to understand the degree in which we’re trying to operate with these programs without sitting down with them for hours on end and saying why these are going to help us,” he said. “We do feel that these are ‘industry best’ practice and best standards.”
Councilwoman Sarah Chapman asked if any PD staff were resistant to change. Polen said they were embracing it.
“They’re understanding the legislative requirements,” he said. “Is it a struggle? Yes. Has it been a struggle? Yes. But moving forward, we believe in the professionalism of our staff.”
Schmutzler said this was especially true with a new generation of officers coming in.
“They grew up with body cameras,” he said. “They grew up with technology that allows for accountability, so to them, this is their native environment.”
In other business, the council voted 6-1 to $37,063 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to small business grants, $102,000 for Visit Vacaville, $102,000 for the Vacaville United Soccer Club, $216,038 for the Vacaville Police Activities League, $200,000 for the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club and $100,000 for Vacaville Ballet Company.