Can Your Software Help You in Court?

While human expertise and judgment are crucial to legal defensibility, technology can add a critical layer of reliability to your records.

Should the need arise, the right software solution ensures that the documentation your agency needs to protect itself in court meets the highest standards of integrity, security, and thoroughness.

Why defensibility matters

With a properly-designed, automated technology solution, you can reduce the time, funding, and energy your agency’s staff spend to meet all the demands of legal defensibility.

This is critical because of all of the improvements a comprehensive data management technology brings to legally defensible documentation.

Saves time and resources

Implementing a defensibility-centered technology solution can be less expensive and more efficient in the long run. The sheer scope and volume of adequate hiring and training documentation is a significant challenge to maintain at a defensible level for your staff, who are likely already working at capacity.

Increases safety

A defensible agency protects everyone. Meeting the high bar of legal defensibility means your personnel have been thoroughly and adequately trained, fairly vetted and hired, and terminated when appropriate. This translates into fewer on-the-job accidents and injuries, fewer instances of misconduct, a safer public, and an efficient and trusted agency.

Minimizes litigation costs

Lawsuit judgments, settlements, and fees cost America’s public safety agencies hundreds of millions of dollars every year. In addition, the most expensive penalties are handed down in federal court, where there are fewer restrictions on who may be sued and no caps on the monetary amounts sought.

Juries may draw unfavorable conclusions from any incomplete, missing, or damaged records in your system.

Why your current software may not be enough

It’s essential to understand the distinction between data management software that’s adequate for your agency’s operational needs and software that provides defensibility in a court of law.

  • The adequacy and legitimacy of your documentation will be questioned—and a properly customized, comprehensive software solution best protects you under this kind of scrutiny.
  • Maintaining the privacy and integrity of your sensitive data requires extensive security measures. These go beyond merely keeping data password-protected on a secure network. A defensible security strategy employs an “audit trail” that adheres to strict timestamping, storage, user control, and capture and destruction protocols.
  • Federal law generally requires that your agency’s records be regularly created, quickly stored, and securely maintained. Software that automatically tracks your compliance in these areas is best for producing evidence that stands up in court.
  • You may know of another agency that’s successfully defended itself in court, but modeling your software on theirs doesn’t necessarily guarantee your own defensibility. The best data management tools are customized to reflect your agency’s particular purpose, responsibilities, and circumstances.

First steps for adopting your defensibility strategy

  1. Get legal involved

    Before making any decisions regarding your data management software, consult with your own agency’s legal department or hire outside counsel if need be.

    Not only are attorneys in your industry the experts when it comes to defensibility in your jurisdiction, but they will be the people working for your organization on the front lines of any potential legal action against you.

    Be sure to also involve your human resources, IT, and finance heads in your talks with legal counsel. They’ll need to know how the legal aspects of adopting a new software solution will affect their departments, and they’ll be able to ask (and answer) questions specific to their roles.

  2. Assess your agency’s needs

    Every law enforcement organization is unique, so having a firm grasp of your current data management equipment and practices will help you map out your transition to a legally defensible system.

    You may want to consider creating a defensibility team at your agency to organize this effort. Again, other stakeholders (HR, IT, Finance, etc.) should be represented on your team.

    In addition to doing your own research on best practices for assessing your agency’s data management needs, consult with companies that provide defensible technology solutions. Experts like those at Acadis® will partner with you to take stock of where you are in the process and plan where you need to be.

  3. Find a defensible solution

    Any technology solution you choose must be robust enough to address all of your defensibility needs today and be able to scale for the future. Technology that is built specifically for public safety, centralizes information in a way that ensures reliable and secure access, and can evolve as your department or agency grows can enable better decision making now and down the road.

    Consider only software that’s comprehensive, customizable, and flexible—and suitable for your industry’s specific needs.

    Finally, make sure you are considering the long-time future of your software. As your agency’s defensibility needs evolve, your system needs to be able to adapt seamlessly.

Are legal defensibility, risk management, and recordkeeping important to you?

Posted on Nov 18, 2021