François Vigneault

Say what you want about Clackamas County, but its various police departments are very polite about throwing shade.

Even as a host of law enforcement agencies from the county bail on the City of Portland’s new police records system—a more than $12 million monster that was supposed to bring local cops into the 21st century, but has instead been criticized as unwieldy—they refuse to say anything negative.

“We just felt that system didn’t meet our needs,” Clackamas County Undersheriff Matt Ellington told me, refusing to offer any examples of how the Regional Justice Information Network (known as RegJIN) came up short. “I’m not here to badmouth another deal,” he said.

It was the same with West Linn Police Captain Neil Hennelly. “I’m not going to badmouth anybody,” he said when I asked why his agency has decided to leave RegJIN.

The majority of Clackamas County agencies have made the same call, Hennelly said. Many of them wouldn’t call me back or respond to emails.

But if the officers of Clackamas County are reluctant to say why RegJIN’s been frustrating, others haven’t been.

Last year, we reported that law enforcement agencies in Clark County, Washington had also decided to bail from the RegJIN system, saying the records platform was cumbersome, requiring far too much time for officers to fill out reports. The Portland Police Association, the city’s rank-and-file police union, offered the same criticism. (Others praised the system’s ability to let agencies easily share police reports.)

Now, these latest defections look like bad news for the folks still using RegJIN.

With agencies like the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Camas Police Department departing from the system at the outset of 2017, user licenses for the dozens of departments still on board became more expensive, records show. That will almost certainly be the case again with Clackamas County agencies opting out, though city officials in charge of the RegJIN roll out didn’t respond to emails inquiring about cost increases.

Meeting minutes from a RegJIN “user board” of participating agencies show departments were already grappling with higher-than-expected costs for the system in March of this year.

More basically, the defections show Portland’s still having a hard time wrangling a system that was vastly more expensive than initially planned. In 2013, I reported that the city had opted to spend twice its original budget for records management software from the Canadian company Versaterm. City Council made that decision even though the city had had fits with the last product it purchased from the company, a 911 dispatch system.

Police officials swore at the time the records system would be different. Four years later, that’s clearly not the case.

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By the way, for all their unwillingness to speak ill of Portland’s system, both the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office and West Linn PD are happy to talk about their pick to replace RegJIN, a product called Mark43 that’s in use in Washington, DC.

“It just fits our business model better,” says Hennelly. “It’s very, very easy to use.”