Bakersfield, California by the Numbers
Like any good police department, the Bakersfield, California PD values its relationship with the community it serves. And one of the foundations of that relationship is transparency through public records.
As a growing city of over 400,000 residents, the Bakersfield PD receives a large number of public records requests, from accident reports to body cam footage. In the past, all of these many requests flowed through a single team member, whether they came in through fax, email, phone, or in person.
“It was extremely difficult to fulfill our mission and provide service to our customers,” recalls Maria Fernandez, Performance Analyst for the BPD.
In the course of filling requests, the Police Department became aware that the City of Bakersfield Clerk’s office had seen productivity gains using JustFOIA. The two departments began sharing the platform, and the Police Department was so pleased that they got their own subscription shortly thereafter.
Read about the benefits that the BPD has seen since implementing JustFOIA.
Transparency and the Requester Experience
Prior to JustFOIA, two records-related problems plagued the Department’s relationships with the public: Delays in responses and poor communication about request statuses.
In California, agencies must respond to public records requests within 10 days. But with only a single person processing requests, the BPD had built up a backlog of approximately 1,200 past due requests.
Requesters would often call the Department for updates, but because record keeping was so difficult, taking time to answer their questions only worsened the bottleneck. The situation was frustrating both for citizens and for the staff.
Within just 4 months of implementing JustFOIA, the team reduced that backlog to fewer than 300 overdue requests.
But JustFOIA did more than cut response times, it improved communication throughout the process. Requesters now receive automated email updates and can see the status of their request at any time. But if someone does call to check, it’s a simple process for a JustFOIA administrator to find out information within the system.
As a result of these two improvements, the department has gotten positive feedback from their biggest “repeat requesters!”
The department’s internal response to JustFOIA has been every bit as positive.
“We have more control over the service we provide and take more pride in it because of JustFOIA,” says Maria.
Staff members feel more in control of the request process due to the increased organization. Thanks to the new software, the PD is able to track requests for public records as well as view information relating to when the request was received, when responses are due, and whether certain documentation has been sent. Any if anyone has questions about a request, it’s easy to see who’s working on it.
And perhaps most importantly, the service allows them to share the load, training a unit to handle records requests through JustFOIA, instead of one person juggling them alone.
The Bakersfield Police Department is now working to expand the use of JustFOIA to handle subpoena requests. Their goal is to use it to communicate more effectively with other departments to manage requests in this high-volume area. They are excited about exploring even more application areas in the future.