County Sheriff’s Office Switches Public Records Software; Gains Efficiency, Security, and Improved Return On Investment
Learn how one SO upgraded from their first solution to their forever solution
Three years ago, this Sheriff’s Office Records Center began searching for technology to solve their public records challenges. They participated in software demonstrations to see what was available; and then took the first step with some hesitation.
Unsure about exactly what they needed; they, truthfully, felt a bit overwhelmed by GovQA’s enterprise solution and all it had to offer in terms of configurability and scalability. So, they opted to go with an alternative solution that looked simple to use; mainly because it had a price low enough to warrant giving it a try.
That’s where the positive reviews ended.
The price of the “other solution” doubled in year two without warning; leaving them with a bitter taste in their mouths — especially because the software had not solved any of their challenges in the year they had been trying to use it. In fact, they were forced to use extremely inconvenient, cumbersome workarounds to get even the most basic tasks done.
”“We didn’t know what we wanted from a software solution. And what we thought was the easier/cheaper path turned out to be a nightmare. We learned from the first step. Now we understand our own needs better and realize we require something more comprehensive. The other solution couldn’t be tailored to our needs.”
Top 8 reasons why this SO switched to GovQA:
CJIS Compliance Attestation
Full CJIS Compliance: For Software Application, Provider and Hosting Services — Attested Annually
Sheriff departments are, rightly, hyper-focused on CJIS (Criminal Justice Information Services) compliance. It’s vital that the sensitive data being held and transferred to and from the Sheriff’s department to catch criminals, perform background checks, and track criminal activity not fall into the wrong hands.
When the “other solution” provider couldn’t speak to their CJIS concerns satisfactorily…and couldn’t provide the comfort level necessary…this SO was forced to make the decision NOT to house any records in the system. This significant limitation compelled them to use the software strictly for tracking requests. And because they weren’t storing records in the software while working on requests, they couldn’t release documents through the online portal. The SO also could not allow any other CJIS information to be entered into the system…which wasted a TON of their time.
So, when this SO decided to switch to GovQA a few months into the second year of using the “other solution”, they were very pleased to learn that the GovQA platform is fully CJIS compliant and third party audited and attested on an ongoing basis. GovQA’s security team had several conversations with the SO team and provided ALL of the documentation they needed for verification and peace of mind. The SO learned that the CJIS compliance delivered by GovQA includes application, infrastructure and personnel security you would expect…such as product development, platform and relevant state and federal employee background checks. But, in addition, GovQA’s staff, corporate offices, development environment, and procedures are also compliant with extensive SETA programs, state-of-the-art building security, and strictly enforced CJIS and HIPAA staff training, certification, and certifications. Third-party auditor Letters of Attestation confirm that the GovQA platform meets all CJIS (as well as HIPAA and NIST/FISMA) compliance requirements year after year.
Redacting with Confidence
Powerful, In-Line Redaction Module with Defensible Audit Trail
The redaction tools offered by the “other solution”, sadly, just didn’t work despite being a major selling point for this SO in their initial decision.
For some reason, this SO’s free version of Acrobat caused PDFs uploaded into the “other” tool to be unusable. The “other” company tried to fix the issue for them but couldn’t. And, ultimately, the solution proposed by the “other” company was to pay to upgrade to Adobe Pro to be able to use the redaction tools they had already paid for in the “other solution”. The SO was not happy about this. And in fact, the workaround still didn’t solve their problem — PDFs from Adobe Pro that DID import and open resulted in goofy font size problems that caused redactions not to line up well. This issue was more critical than simple appearances, though. The bad conversions resulted in a risk of accidental disclosure. This, in the SO’s eyes, negated the entire point of the redaction module.
GovQA’s In-tool Redaction™ allows the redaction process to happen within the platform, increasing security and reducing the steps needed for a successful document redaction. With convenient functions like Text Search, Pattern Matching, Redact Similar, Exemption Tracking, and Responsive Records Packeting (via PDF Portfolios), GovQA makes it easy to collaborate and generate an audit log while saving valuable time.
”“For every word that needed redaction in the other solution, we had to do a separate click back and forth to the redaction tool. Redaction takes seconds within the GovQA tool...where it took minutes in the ‘other solution’. That time adds up.”
Advanced, Easy-to-Use Search Tools Deliver Actionable Results
In the “other solution”, when the SO performed a search for a police report number (for example: 19-xxxxxxx); they would get a list of every document that had a “-”, “1” and “9”, plus any of the other letters/numbers in the file name. And the search results had seemingly no rhyme or reason and no useful sort options.
The SO was excited to see GovQA’s Advanced Document Search function, which performs a full-text search of documents in the public records archive. The total count of results is displayed; and you can make the search more granular as needed by expanding the search criteria pane to search “all”, “any”, etc. You can search directly in the field list and remember the last five fields from your previous advanced search.
”“We couldn’t make sense of what was returned in searches in the other solution. Other than to say it was totally worthless.”
Similar Request Linking
Helps Reduce Work by Processing Similar Requests at the Same Time
The SO loved the similar request flagging function in GovQA — a feature not offered in the “other solution”. Similar Request Flagging in GovQA automatically alerts your staff of possible duplicates (which can match based on any request fields you choose), and allows you to link one-to-many to work requests together. Other benefits of this feature:
- See a count of similar requests right from the main list of requests
- Quickly view similar requests in the “related” tab of any request
- Use the “copy to request” function to easily copy attachments to related requests.
- Limit matches based on security settings, status, request type, time frame, etc.
Like all GovQA features, the similar request linking conforms to your needs. Learn more about GovQA’s configurability below.
Interagency Module Simplifies Regular/Frequent Collaboration with Other Public Agents
The Sheriff’s Office has to collaborate with other law enforcement and criminal justice agencies on a regular basis – as do most public safety agencies. In the “other solution”, this collaboration was impossible since the user accounts were locked down to only those within SO confines. This meant that the SO had to handle interagency requests completely outside of the tool because there simply wasn’t a way to scale up.
GovQA’s interagency module, on the other hand, made it easy to intake requests and share common law enforcement records amongst other public safety agents with whom they collaborate regularly or frequently. With GovQA, any outside agency representative can request interagency access with a simple online form that gathers required documentation for vetting by the Sheriff’s office staff. Then, once an interagency account has been set up, approved agency requesters can use an online form to collaborate seamlessly on an on-going basis – submitting requests online and picking up the records and documents right from the portal.
”“The interagency portal is great because it makes it so easy to work with other agencies. We have eliminated the need for endless phone calls and emails that were very difficult to track. And the system keeps an audit trail of interactions and statuses.”
Expand Interagency to Infrequent/One-off External Groups or Untrained/Inexperienced Users
If you want to expand interagency capabilities beyond a connection with those external groups with whom you collaborate regularly, GovQA’s exchange requests are the next step. Exchange Requests from GovQA let you quickly and securely delegate document collection or review to inexperienced, untrained users…or external users with whom you have infrequent contact – such as those from other government agencies and non-government entities (attorneys, schools, hospitals).
With GovQA’s Exchange Requests™ module, workflows allow for real-time tracking, conversations, and notifications wherever secure, external requests are needed. Exchange Requests are ideal whenever they have to collaborate in a CJIS or HIPAA compliant manner with untrained, infrequent (one-off) staffers because no training is needed…users follow intuitive, step-by-step interface to complete requests.
Exchange Requests let your agency staff create step-by-step request flow templates using simple widgets. The recipient of an Exchange Request gets a secure email identifying the requesting agency. Multi-session responses allow back-and-forth, two-way conversations and recipients have the convenience of saving their work in stages. Your staff sees tiered requests grouped inside the GovQA admin portal, along with full audit trails, notifications, reminders. Something else you won’t find in “other solutions”? No file size limits!
Configurability to Match Needs Exactly
A Platform That Conforms to You; Not the Other Way Around
The nuances in this SO’s process just didn’t fit in with the way that the “other solution” was forcing them to work.
One fairly common process the SO has to perform regularly is reaching out to other departments for authorizations – for example, County Counsel. In the “other solution”, they had to add the County Counsel staffers under the standard user profile; reach out to them; then deactivate them after getting the authorization to prevent them from getting every notification going to users with that profile. And, because those messages came from an email address with the “other solution” company name and not a recognizable SO email address (this cannot be configured in the “other solution”), the messages tend to be ignored or overlooked because recipients can’t identify the sender.
GovQA is fully configurable to your needs – the platform conforms to you, not the other way around. Extensive security and user settings make it easy to structure every workflow to each individual users’ needs – this results in optimal efficiency for your whole agency.
”“It’s as if the programmers of the other solution decided that there's one way to handle public records. They shoehorn agencies into the solution. GovQA improves what works with our public records processes and can turn on or off features for our particular situation. Whenever we explained a unique way we do things at SO, GovQA’s answer was - ‘no problem, we can set it up that way’.”
Dedicated implementation engineers, deep reference base, best practices guidance and alignment with your unique workflows
GovQA has been in the state and local government space for 20+ years. We have seen that agencies which have taken the first huge leap into tackling their public records problems and pain points will quickly progress to the point where they know they need something more comprehensive. Implementation fatigue can be a real thing that prevents agencies from switching away from their first “solution” — but GovQA is adept at helping make the transition from “first” solution to “forever” solution as painless as possible. Learn more about our Quick Switch process here.
In summary, the “other solution” is not really a solution at all. Make GovQA’s forever solution your first solution and save time and money.
Your budgets may be slashed due to the global pandemic, but your FOIA backlog and the threat of litigation aren’t going anywhere. Now more than ever, you need a solution to respond to urgent requests that securely supports remote work and helps your agency recover out-of-pocket costs; a system that pays for itself.
Explore the ROI of GovQA’s crisis-ready FOIA solution here: https://govqa.com/cost-justification-public-records-software/.
”“It was difficult to schedule any sort of support or help with the 'other solution'. We had to define templates, automated responses, and portal settings ourselves. And we had to train our own staff to use the tool.”