Nation’s second largest county issues records management bid

Published: December 12, 2013

Cloud ComputingContract AwardsJustice/Public Safety & Homeland Security

On Dec. 9, Cook County, Ill., issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for a records management system (RMS) for its sheriff’s office, court services, police department and department of corrections. Cook County has a population of more than 5 million, making it the second largest county in the country, after Los Angeles County.

Typically, RMS projects are developed for a sheriff, fire or police department and utilized by various law enforcement officials within those agencies. In this case, the sheriff’s office is also comprised of courts and court services, the department of corrections, and the police department, making it quite unique and an even larger undertaking. Cook County’s court division has the largest unified court system in the country. There are a number of other working units with the court division, all which will utilize this system. It appears to be a trend for agencies to develop systems for more than just one agency. Developing multi-agency systems can save money and ensure continuity among departments. The idea of following someone from arrest to parole can be done with this method by utilizing software in the court, jail and parole.

The sheriff’s office employs 6,800 sworn officers and civilians, divided between various divisions. The new records management system is expected to operate on current Microsoft technologies and must offer single-sign-on methodology that interacts with the existing Microsoft infrastructure. The system must also have full, two-way, real-time data interface connections with the clerk and the department of corrections for inmate tracking. The county utilizes a Motorola PremierOne computer-aided dispatch system, and the mapping fields must be compatible.

One other main component that will enable the county to implement future technologies is an open architecture via non-proprietary platforms for easier modifications. Smaller agencies that need less flexibility may opt for commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) systems, but this would not work with such a large agency. As with any agency, full time access from any computer will be necessary as well as connectivity to other digital justice systems, which comes into play when working with other counties or cities. Finally, the county will consider a cloud, hybrid or on-premises system, depending on the requirements and costs of each.

Cook County, two years into its Set Targets, Achieve Results (STAR) program, released a report in 2012 discussing some of the successes and plans for public safety. One of the goals was to seek information on why there is an increase in the length of pre-trial jail stays. It may be possible to utilize the new RMS to categorize data and come to new conclusions in this regard. With all the tools included in the new software system, more analysis can occur and new detention alternatives can be realized – another goal of the county’s public safety agencies.

Analyst’s Take:

Cities and counties purchase records management systems regularly, but more often than not, these systems are basic COTS products with some aspects customized to fit the needs of the agency. Cook County is a large and populous county with more needs than most. Vendors looking to bid on this project must understand the various requirements that will be necessary. There is just more than a month before proposals are due on January 22, 2014; therefore, it’s essential to ask any questions that are not clearly stated in the RFQ.

While this project is different than most, it is worth noting that the agency is looking at cloud, hybrid and on-premises systems to determine the best fit. Cloud or hybrid systems save network and storage space within the agency, and with the needs of Cook County and the systems that will be required, this may be absolutely necessary.