SB 944: What the New Texas Public Records Law Means to You and Your Agency

3 min read

On June 14 the Legislature of the State of Texas enacted SB 944 commonly known as the “Texas Public Records Law” and it impacts every Texas Chief, Sheriff, City Manager, County Manager, and Elected Official. You can view summary of the the act for Law Enforcement executives here.

The Act requires that your Agency be compliant by September 1, 2019.

The day to day requirements of Law Enforcement require speed of communication – especially when a crisis strikes. In order to address those needs, most Agency employees have defaulted to using public messaging apps such as WhatsApp, SMS texting, Signal, FB Messenger and a host of others in order to share work-related intelligence, project collaboration, victim’s information, probable cause statements, texts between employees and other effected communications.

The Act effectively outlaws the use of these public messaging apps to share Agency related critical intelligence and requires that you implement a FOIA complaint and fully transparent information collaboration and reporting platform which includes all texts, images, voice recordings and videos (the Act refers to this data collectively as “Public Record”)

What is considered a “public record” for 1st Responders?  According to 2018 Public Information Handbook, published by the Texas AG’s Office:

“[t]he general forms in which the media containing public information exist include a book, paper, letter, document, e-mail, Internet posting, text message, instant message, other electronic communication, printout, photograph, film, tape, microfiche, microfilm, photostat, sound recording, map, and drawing and a voice, data, or video representation held in computer memory.”

For more than a decade, agencies have been unknowingly violating their state’s laws pertaining to accessing and delivering ALL forms of public records.  Now, law makers have decided enough is enough and passed the “Public Records Act” into law. To quote the Act (emphasis added):

“(b) A current or former officer or employee of a governmental body who maintains public information on a privately owned device shall:

(1) forward or transfer the public information to the governmental body server to be preserved as provided by Subsection (a); or

(2) preserve the public information in its original form on the privately owned device for the time described under Subsection (a)

The new Act requires that Agencies act now in order to meet the deadline and there is an immediately available, off-the-shelf, affordable solution and it can deploy in minutes on employees’ mobile phones.

Evertel is built specifically to address these challenges and is currently deployed in agencies throughout the U.S.

Key features of Evertel: 

  • All information created on private or departmental owned devices is recorded and retained and transferable to Agency servers for compliance with the Act
  • Adheres to CJIS guidelines
  • Adheres to all FOIA/public records request laws/legislation
  • Full auditing & executive access to all data, texts, chats, and attachments
  • Unlimited voice & data messaging
  • Small group encrypted chats (texts)
  • Agency wide alerts for delivering emergency messages to every Agency employee in moments
  • No data can be deleted (only ‘archived’)
  • Security settings to prevent pushing/sharing to social media
  • Screen shot prevention or alerts

Policy checklist (steps to be in full compliance with S.B. 944 in Texas)

Goal: To immediately gain full compliance with all FOIA, CJIS, and S.B. 944, relating to the Public Information Law.

Effective immediately, EVERY employee will follow these 4 steps:

  1. Every employee will be fully briefed on S.B. 944 and complete acknowledgment of this policy to their Supervisor, verbally, or in writing.
  2. Every employee will download “Evertel” to their phones/tablets by searching “Evertel” in their App Store.
  3. Only Evertel will be used for official department sharing of intelligence, employee collaboration, messaging using smartphones while on-duty OR when sharing work-related information when off-duty.
  4. Effective September 1, 2019: Social media and consumer Apps will NOT be used, on any device (city OR personally owned), for official department sharing of intelligence, inter-agency networking, intra-agency collaboration, and text messaging.

Evertel can be installed in 3 easy steps to ensure full compliance with the new Act:

  1. Mandate that all employees use Evertel for work-related communications, information sharing, and intelligence distribution
  2. Publish new Agency policy to support 1. (example agency policies are available for your use) that prohibits the use of any other platform that would be in violation of the new Act
  3. Provide immediate in-service training in the month of August to obtain full compliance by September 1

Start your free implementation of Evertel before time runs out!

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