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Implementing a records management system with NIBRS compliance

By January 2021, records management systems (RMS) used by agencies must switch to a new reporting methodology called the National Incident-Based Reporting System. In this podcast, Ben Van Horne, U.S. Director of RMS Technology and Implementations, and Gina Steadman, Product Manager, from Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure, will outline what agencies should consider when implementing a records management system, including how to stay NIBRS-compliant.

ZN: Records Management Systems, or RMS, gather and store reliable data, which, in turn, allows for the measured planning and informed policing as well as the capability to track trends and detect changes in crime patterns. Each RMS utilizes its own reporting methodology, but in less than two years, every agency RMS must employ a new methodology called the National Incident-Based Reporting System.

I’m joined here on HxGN Radio by Ben Van Horne, U.S. director of RMS Technology and Implementations, and Gina Steadman, product manager, both from our Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure Division. Thank you both for joining us today. So, I want to start with a general question regarding RMS: Can you explain for our audience the purpose, at a 30,000-foot view, of their reporting methodologies?

GS: Well, I think it’s good to understand that there’s all types of data that agencies are required to collect. And that data can be from the regional level, from their internal agency level, all the way to state level, and now, obviously, to federal level. Agencies use this to argue for more resources because you have to write reports, you spend time writing those reports, and so forth. If you can qualify how much time you’re doing something, then you can get more resources and stuff like that so you can have more officials out on the field, and it just qualifies that.

BVH: And being able to show for funding and for additional resources downstream, you can also have data sharing for trend crime reporting, for detectives, for all sorts of user bases within RMS system itself.

ZN: So, before we started, and our audience doesn’t have this pleasure, but before we started, the acronym for the National Incident-Based Reporting System, I pronounced it as neebers, nibbers?


ZN: NIBRS, okay, NIBRS. How does NIBRS differ from previous reporting methodologies, because up until this point, agencies were typically using UCR, the uniform crime reporting program protocol?

BVH: Sure. So, while many states implemented custom UCR, all states had to adhere to a federal guideline at a minimum. The main difference with UCR and NIBRS, UCR really only required them to report one crime at the federal level, based on a rules hierarchy. NIBRS allows for all crimes now to be reported as an incident and expands the capabilities that track trends and crime patterns. So not only does this help information at the local agency level to provide better services from a resource standpoint, but also allows the state and federal governments to provide additional services and support based on crime trends found in the more granular reported data.

ZN: Okay. So, as we’re shifting to this change, what are agencies going to be responsible for once they start implementing this new methodology?

BVH: So, police agencies will be responsible for collecting a lot more data elements now. It’s going to be more stringent data validation than the process required. The NIBRS validation, or the guidelines, while around for a while, will provide agencies with new methodology, a very comprehensive set of rules the incident reports must meet. The rules will ensure data is consistently reported across all agencies so that it’s a consistent data collection across the nation as this point.

ZN: Okay. Obviously, this is an improvement, right?

BVH: Absolutely, yes.

ZN: In terms of implementing this, then, can you walk us through the steps that agencies are going to have to take in order to fully transition over to a new records management system?

BVH: Sure. So, there are a number of key points to take into consideration when you’re implementing a new RMS, and we’re talking both at a new RMS level as well as with NIBRS guidelines and things like that. Agencies have to be cognizant of the fact of do they want to convert their legacy data? It can be a fairly resource intensive and costly component of the implementation. Many agencies feel their legacy data is just not clean enough to bring forward, especially with the new validation rules and how will it play in with their previously existing data. They have to weigh the pros and cons and be aware of all the effects that that decision may have on their implementation. An agency also needs to be sure that they have appointed a good team that consists of folks who understand all aspects of their agency, the agency’s business processes as well as all their integration points. Too often, agencies put implementation teams that either no longer understand their current business processes or maybe never really did. And in these situations, decisions on how to implement this new system can be very costly and cause either end-user frustration or maybe some re-work downstream.

ZN: And that’s a great point. And that leads me to, I think, an important question to consider. Would you say that right now these agencies are aware of the investment it’s going to take in order to make this transition?

BVH: I think that they, when they look at implementing a new RMS, they look at the investment from a cost perspective as what they’re purchasing. But I don’t know that they’re always aware of the investment that they have to put into it from a resource perspective. I think they have to be more cognizant in thinking long term, as they have to invest not only from a financial aspect, but also at a resource level to make this successful.

ZN: That makes a lot of sense. So, for agencies that need to be nibbers compliant—right? Nibbers?


ZN: Neebers? So close. —NIBRS compliant, what are some of the things that they want to be keeping in mind as they’re transitioning to this new RMS?

BVH: They have to be aware of, from an entry point standpoint, their officers are going to be asked to adhere to standards that are well beyond anything they’re used to. You have to be aware of the fact that now you’ve got a user base that you have to train and bring on board. You have to spend a lot of time upfront, gaining your agency’s understanding of what this new world is going to look like for them, training them on the new rules set, and then also having them understand, from a field level, what they’re going to be involved with. This can cause a lot of frustration at the officer level because they’re not used to this level of entry, and it causes frustration from the standpoint that they want to just be out there doing their daily job and working calls. And this can inject new, time-intensive work on their part.

GS: Yes, I want to add to that. I mean, I was a former officer, right? Typically, we don’t necessarily care about the endgame, when we’re completing our reports and things like that. We need to understand at a high level, and also down further levels, to understand why we’re doing this, why are we having to fill out x, y, or z? And so if they can articulate that to us, then it makes—as an officer, then we’re able to understand and say, “Okay, we need to make sure that this data and the input that we’re providing is correct and accurate and everything else.” That’s where this comes in, the rules base, and as we’re working through OnCall Records, it helps us with that, right?

ZN: Then, I have this question: In terms of making the transition, would you say, Gina, that at the lower level, that it’s not just understanding from the agency level, from the higher-ups moving on down to say, “Here’s what we need to do to make this transition?’  Does there also have to be conversation at that officer level in order to make that work?

GS: Yes. Because as an officer, you want to understand why am I having to do x, y, and z. Especially if it’s an additional step or additional reporting thing that I haven’t had to ordinarily do in the past. So if you can articulate why I’m having to do that, to that officer, then they’ll say, “Okay, I get this, and if this is going to help us get more officers out on the road, because we’re having to do all of this, or having to respond to more burglaries, or things like that, then ultimately that’s a good endgame if you will.”

BVH: You also bring up a good point, though. From the top-down, agencies need to make sure that they understand, with this new NIBRS standard, the stats that they had that they would publicize to the media and even to the Federal government are going to go up. They’re going to change. We talked about UCR being one crime per incident, so to speak. With the new incident, the NIBRS standard, you’re reporting everything related to an incident, which is great because now we have a holistic view of what’s happening in an agency. However, we have to educate your leadership as well to make sure they understand why these stats are changing. Crime’s not going up in your area; you’re just reporting it differently. And you have to also take that to the media level so that they understand that crime’s not going to suddenly jump in their jurisdiction; it’s just a different methodology that’s getting reported.

GS: And that’s a key point to understand, especially for your administration at that level and making sure that your citizens understand that. Because if you, all of a sudden, have—it looks that like your crime is increasing at a dramatic rate. And that’s not necessarily the case. So there needs to be some communication to make sure that everybody is on the same page, if you will.

ZN: Okay, so, moving to Hexagon, then. Gina, what is the best solution that we have, if we have a solution, that’s going to help these agencies as they’re making that transition over?

GS: OnCall Records, as a solution, NIBRS validation is built into its design and we understand, as we’re moving forward, the crime reporting and everything else. It’s going to help agencies transition because it’s going to provide step-by-step workflows and the information that you need to put in there to make sure that you get the validations correct and everything else. It’s going to warn you. If I don’t have something correct. It’s going to warn you and let you know. So, it’s a robust system, built in, that agencies will be able to go through and be able to do the step-by-step. It’s an overall good solution for the NIBRS. And we have to understand NIBRS is U.S.-based, right? From just a product perspective, we have the capability — there’s other regions and globally information that they need to report on as well. We’re working on making sure that whether you’re in the United States or Canada or wherever it might be, that the records management system addresses your needs and reporting needs and things like that.

ZN: So OnCall, then, is definitely going to help with that NIBRS compliance. Is it going to help these agencies beyond just making that compliance move?

GS: Well, sure, because it’s more than compliance, right? I mean capturing the data and everything else and writing reports. I mean, it’s investigation; it is jail management; it is being able to report on what’s going on in the analytics end, so trends and things like that. So that’s what the overall solution gives you. Certainly, it is a big part of it, the NIBRS compliance or just any reporting type of things. But with the investigation stuff and everything, it helps to actually work through an incident from beginning to end. It starts in the CAD world, the dispatch world, if you will. And to be able to work it all the way through, from the detectives that are investigating the crime, collecting crime scene and evidence and things like that. So that’s what the product as a whole does for you.

BVH: Yes. I mean, incident and NIBRS compliant is just one module of a full product suite. The application itself lends itself to user groups beyond just the patrol component and the incident reporting, as Gina said. There are modules beyond just the NIBRS component that a full RMS utilizes.

ZN: Absolutely. All right. Well, I want to give a big thank you to both of our guests here today, Ben Van Horne and Gina Steadman. If you want more information about today’s topic, visit www.hexagonsafetyinfrastructure.com. And to listen to additional episodes or to learn more, please visit hxgnspotlight.com. We want to thank everybody for tuning in.