Based on recommendations outlined in an audit of the Vacaville Police Department last year, the city council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Police Chief Ian Schmutzler to purchase three pieces of software at Tuesday’s meeting to improve transparency and streamline participation.
In 2021, amid high tensions between national and local police departments, the city of Vacaville announced an audit of the police department and selected OIR Group, a Playa del Rey-based company that works with the local government. Work with law enforcement agencies to address policing issues and make recommendations for reform.
The audit results, released in November, spoke positively of the department across the board, particularly its high staff morale, officers who took pride in serving Vacaville, commitment to customer service and attention to detail in enforcement tactics.
However, 40 recommendations for improvement were made, mainly in its internal investigative processes, transparency and compliance. One recommendation specifically calls on the department to “invest in a software program that will standardize and facilitate its administrative investigation process and allow for easy collection and storage of investigative material.”
To move closer to that goal, the department proposed a resolution to allocate $155,000 from the general fund for the current fiscal year, or about $60,000 annually for new software.
Captain Chris Polen said the advice highlighted the department’s current needs.
“Our current professional standards and training (also known as internal affairs) have the technology that needs to be adapted to be more transparent, efficient, responsive to the public and meet legislative requirements, but those technologies either don’t exist, are outdated, Either it’s labor-intensive.” “Basically, our current system can’t keep up with the demand.”
After meeting with other law enforcement agencies, discussing their technology and watching demonstrations from different software companies, the department identified three programs that were a good fit for Vacaville PD: Veritone’s editing software, Frontline Public Safety Solutions’ internal review software and Granicus ‘ Public Records Request Software.
“The staff felt that by updating our technology, it would help address seven OIR recommendations, which we included as part of your staff report,” Polen said.
Veritone will be used to edit faces and any other personally identifiable or case-sensitive information in a more convenient manner when reviewing body camera and vehicle camera footage. Currently, Polen said, for every hour of video that needs to be edited, the department takes five staff hours to go through the footage. The department typically handles about 250 hours of video and audio editing per year.
“The software will reduce our staff’s time by 75 percent,” he said. “Currently we have a backlog of about 200 hours, up to 250 hours, of digital evidence that needs to be processed.”
Frontline’s Pro Standards software will be used to increase reception of citizen complaints and compliments, provide an early warning system for potential official misconduct, allow the public to share feedback on positive and negative interactions with officials, and track and monitor use of force, vehicles Manhunts and Officer Accountability.
“In our view, that’s what the OIR is all about,” said Polen.
Polen said it will also allow PD staff to track claims through the city attorney’s office and will provide the city council with real-time information and data charts 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 more than 40 hours of staff time to produce,” Polen said. “Vacaville PD has approximately 175 PRA reporting requests that also need to be edited.”
Polen said the PD plans to purchase 10 permits so that the City Manager’s Office, City Attorney’s Office and City Clerk’s Office can assist in tracking and enforcing PRA requests. The three-year contract with Granicus costs $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 PD staff if they saw all the software running. Pollan said they saw the requested software at the Solano County Sheriff’s Office, the Fairfield Police Department and the Sacramento Police Department.
“What we love about all of these specific programs is that they can be tailored to Vacaville PD,” he said.
Silva also asked if there was a public participation software request. The group that formed the OIR recommendation was not involved in the process, Polen said.
“It seems to me that they’re going to have a hard time understanding the extent to which we’re trying to use these programs without sitting down with them for hours on end and explaining why they’re helping us,” he said. “We do consider these to be ‘industry best’ practices and best standards.”
Councilwoman Sarah Chapman asked if any PD staff were resistant to change. Pollan said they’re taking it.
“They understand the legislative requirements,” he said. “Is it a struggle? Yes. Is it a struggle? Yes. But going forward, we trust the professionalism of our people.”
This is especially true with the addition of a new generation of officials, Schmutzler said.
“They grew up with body cameras,” he said. “They’ve grown up on technology that allows for accountability, so for them it’s their native environment.”
In other businesses, the council voted 6-1 to pass the American Rescue Package Act providing $37,063 in grants for small businesses, Visit Vacaville $102,000, Vacaville United Soccer Club $102,000, Vacaville Police Activities League $216,038, Vacaville Neighborhood Boys 00000000000 Dollars & Girls Club and $100,000 for Vacaville Ballet.