Following recommendations outlined in last year’s audit of the Vacaville Police Department, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting authorizing Police Chief Ian Schmutzler to purchase three software units to increase transparency and streamline outreach.
In 2021, amid high tensions between police departments nationally and locally, the City of Vacaville announced an audit of the Police Department and selected OIR Group, a company based in Playa Del Rey that has worked with local governments and law enforcement agencies to address issues. police problems and make recommendations for reform.
The results of the audit were released in November, giving an overall positive review of the department, particularly its high morale among its staff, employees who proudly served Vacaville, commitment to customer service and attention to detail in the enforcement strategy.
However, 40 recommendations for improvement were made, mainly in the areas of internal investigation processes, transparency and compliance. One recommendation specifically called for the department to “invest in a software program that would standardize and streamline its administrative investigation process and allow for convenient collection and storage of investigative materials.”
To move closer to that goal, the department issued a resolution allocating $155,000 from the General Fund for the current fiscal year and approximately $60,000 annually for new software.
Capt. Chris Polen said the recommendation highlighted a current need in the department.
“Our current technology related to professional standards and training, also known as internal affairs, which is needed to provide greater transparency, efficiency, responsiveness to the public and to meet legislative mandates, is either non-existent, outdated or laborious,” he said. “Basically, we can’t keep up with the demand with our current systems.”
After meeting with other law enforcement agencies, talking about their technology and watching demonstrations from various software companies, the department identified three programs that would be suitable for Vacaville PD: Veritone editing software, Frontline Public Safety Solutions internal review software and Granicus. Public records require software.
“Staff believes that updating our technology will help address the seven OIR recommendations that we included in your staff report,” Polen said.
Looking at body-worn and in-car cameras, Veritone will be used to more effectively edit faces and anything else that identifies people or case-sensitive information. Currently, Polen said, the department needs five staff hours to review that footage for every one hour of video that needs editing. The department typically processes about 250 hours of video and audio editing each year.
“This software will reduce our staff time by 75%,” he said. “We currently have about 200 hours, up to 250 hours of stored digital evidence that needs to be processed.”
Frontline Pro Standards software will be used to improve the reception 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 responsibility.
“We think that’s all OIR was talking about,” Polen said.
Polen said it will also allow PD officers to track claims through the city attorney’s office and provide real-time information and data graphs to the council upon request.
Granicus, specifically its GovQA software, will be used to help PD facilitate California Public Records Act requests.
“Last year alone, Vacaville PD had 43 in-depth PRAs (requests), each requiring over 40 hours of staff time to prepare,” Polen said. “Vacaville PD had approximately 175 PRA report requests that also needed to be redacted.”
Polen said PD plans to purchase 10 licenses so the city manager’s office, city attorney’s office and city clerk’s office can help track and comply with PRA requests. The contract with Granicus would be for three years and pay $23,500 in the first year, $25,145 in the second year and $26,905 in the third year.
“Anyone 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 have seen the requested software at the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, the Fairfield Police Department and the Sacramento Police Department.
“What we liked about all of these particular programs is that they are adaptable to Vacaville PD,” he said.
Silva also asked if there had been public involvement in the software requests. Polen said the group that made the OIR recommendations was not part of that process.
“I think it would be pretty hard for them to understand the extent to which we’re trying to operate these programs without sitting down with them for hours and hours and telling them why they’re going to help us,” he said. “We believe this is ‘industry best’ practice and the best standards.”
Councilwoman Sarah Chapman asked if any PD staff were resistant to change. Polen said they accept it.
“They understand the legislative requirements,” he said. “Is it a fight? Yes. Has it been a struggle? Yes. But moving forward, we believe in the professionalism of our employees.
Schmutzler said this is especially true for the younger generation of officers.
“They grew up with body cameras,” he said. “They grew up with technology that provides accountability, so for them this is their native environment.”
In other business, the council voted 6-1 to fund $37,063 for America’s Rescue Plan Act 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 Vacaville Neighbor the Vacays. & Girls Club and $100,000 to the Vacaville Ballet Company.