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CitySmart Blog

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Brian Ocfemia, Engineering Manager
Brian Ocfemia

Are you a hoarder? Do you keep everything—every record, every video, every file—indefinitely? In some cases, this leads to expensive physical or electronic storage costs. In other cases, you may find yourself crushed by the operational burden of storing and managing so much data. You may think, “I need to be ready in case we need it.” Or maybe you are just too busy to regularly and consistently prune information.

Hoarding records may seem responsible on the surface, but it’s not. Hoarding opens your city up to legal, operational, and financial risks. Let’s look at some of these risks in more detail.

1. You’re adding a legal risk to your city.

Records retention policies provide you a record lifecycle that begins with creation and ends (for most) with disposal. Depending on your adopted records retention policies, you are only required to keep most records for a finite amount of time. Then, you may dispose of those records. That means if someone requests a record after you legally dispose of it, you are not required to produce it.

Not following this process opens yourself up to legal risks. For example, someone may ask you to produce records that go far back in time. If you have those records, then you must produce them. This creates unnecessary work and opens you up to legal issues that could have been easily avoided.

2. You’re adding an operational burden to your city.

No matter who does the work to search for records—you, your staff, an IT vendor, a legal team—someone is using up your time and money. The more records you indefinitely store, the more labor you will need to find those records. Those operational costs add up and a request can be highly interruptive (especially when members of your staff dedicate time searching for records). After producing the record, you may need additional time reviewing and redacting what you’ve found.

Managing less records by disposing of them according to your retention schedule, along with better organizing existing records, allows you to lessen the amount of retrieval time. An IT vendor with experience in municipal records retention storage and retrieval can also help you reduce operational costs.

3. You’re adding a storage burden to your city.

Whether you have physical records or electronic records, the cost of record storage grows year after year as you hoard records. By following records retention schedules, you lessen the amount of physical and/or electronic storage needed—reducing your costs and data management burden.

This is especially helpful in a storage-intensive area such as body camera video. Video records create a large record footprint to manage, but you don’t need to compound that problem by retaining records past the retention schedule. In Kentucky, it’s 60 days (unless part of a criminal investigation). In Georgia, it’s 180 days (unless part of a criminal investigation). Other states vary, but the timeframes are relatively short. There’s no reason to keep such large amounts of video past the retention deadline when the data takes up massive amounts of storage and incurs legal and operational burdens.

Following records retention best practices not only helps you comply with the law but also benefits you financially and legally. Reduced costs, reduced risks, and reduced operational and data management burdens all result from not hoarding any and all records.

Need help tightening up your records retention processes to reduce risks and costs? Reach out to us today.