Are your personnel records accurate and up-to-date?

Public safety personnel generate a lot of records, and they are critical to helping identify areas of opportunity as well as trends. Every interaction a law enforcement, fire, or emergency medical professional has with the public carries a need for deep documentation.

Accurate and comprehensive recordkeeping is just as important on the administrative and HR side, where information must be conveyed in a way that is effective, easy to understand, and easy to access.

This information might include initial training, ongoing education, compliance, disciplinary history, and more.

The Downsides of Poor Records Management

1. Inadequate Records = Inadequate Legal Defensibility

Poor recordkeeping practices are problematic for a number of reasons, but ultimately it makes it very difficult to understand patterns and trends, and can lead to legal trouble.

Whether the agency is defending itself against allegations of misconduct; improper hiring or firing practices; or some other practical aspect of the job, having detailed training records is essential to showing compliance with the law and policy—typically the first deficiency a plaintiff’s lawyer will attempt to expose in the courtroom.

2. Subpar Personnel Decisions

In increasingly specialized fields such as law enforcement, the ability to quickly identify specialized training and skills is an important step in achieving greater operational flexibility.

Being able to identify those qualifiers requires organizations to have the right records available, up to date, and easily accessible. When it comes to recruiting and understanding skills and training capabilities across the department, the inability to identify the right people for the right roles can have a serious detrimental effect on the agency’s ability to function.

3. Hampered Decision-Making by Leaders

An organization that doesn’t have the right data at its fingertips is limited in its ability to make educated decisions based on data and facts. Making important personnel decisions based on supposition and anecdotes can impact consistency and long term performance.

With so many tools available to agencies looking to strengthen their individual recordkeeping practices, the situation is fixable once needs are identified.

Ways to Improve Your Individual Recordkeeping Practices

1. Review Your Policies

You will have a good idea of which records matter in which context, and the very first step of your process should be to review that information against the day-to-day practices of your organization.

When identifying shortcomings, most of your findings will likely be:

  • Shortcomings that can be fixed by alterations to policy: Making those conducting training take more detailed notes in an area that was once determined by a yes-or-no checkbox, for example.
  • Shortcomings that can be fixed by alterations to practice: If policy isn’t to blame and your practices aren’t generating the right kind of records, it’s time to look at the practices themselves.

2. Review Your Tools

If your policy must “work around” technological shortcomings (e.g. legacy systems not collating the right info), it doesn’t matter how strong your individual records or the policy that governs their creation are.

Often, these problems come down to fragmentation or siloization, otherwise known as the inability for one system or set of processes to add value to another without significant human intervention. This can occur when the right data isn’t available, when it’s housed in multiple systems, or when good data isn’t presented in a convenient or efficient way.

Let’s say a high-level decision-maker must determine which individuals to place on a newly created, specialized team. Even if this organization has all the right data, that decision-maker still may struggle to select the team if they must hunt for that information in multiple systems: one holding training data, another containing disciplinary info, and so on.

The right system will enhance your individual recordkeeping practices by allowing you to record all of the data that matters, then giving relevant users easy access to inform their decision-making. If your current tools don’t meet that basic need, it’s time to move to something that can support it.


Effective administration requires a commitment to strong recordkeeping at the individual level. From basic policy to the tools governing your day-to-day operations, there are a lot of points that can create undesirable disconnects.

Ensuring you are solving problems today—as well as anticipating needs down the road—will create positive change and drive data-based decision-making practices.

Posted on Aug 26, 2021