County board approves $20 million outlay for sheriff’s technology acquisitions

Diane Sieker photo

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved Sheriff Chad Bianco’s request for roughly $20 million in outlays over the next decade to acquire and maintain advanced equipment for records management and dispatch resources during its Feb. 11 meeting.

The board’s 5-0 vote without comment came after the sheriff submitted documents showing most of the current hardware and software employed for computer-aided dispatch, the records management and jail management systems are outdated, and investments are needed to ensure the sheriff’s department has technology on hand to meet needs going forward.

Bianco said the Eyering Research Institute and Cobol-based systems that operate databases and platforms key to agency functions were procured in the 1980s, and a Microsoft 2008 SQL server is running some of the gear.

The sheriff said in documents posted to the board’s agenda that the “antiquated” arrangement “limits our ability to extract and push out information or configure our data in a usable manner.”

“The redundancy of tasks by the operators across systems and inability to comply with new state and federal mandates have limited our ability to improve our operation or achieve workflow efficiencies,” Bianco said.

The board’s action clears the way for the department to migrate to systems developed and delivered by Tampa, Florida-based SOMA Global, which specializes in supplying high-tech software for law enforcement operations.

Bianco said his executive staff conducted research to find the optimal vendor for the acquisitions, and SOMA proved to be it. He requested approval of the contract without competitive bidding.

“SOMA Global has the software solution that can meet all our operational needs,” the sheriff said. “Some of the features that are unique to and sold exclusively by SOMA are their Native-Cloud Platform, Browser-based Interface and Expansive/Extensible Platform. Their SOMA Platform features flexible deployment options that can be hosted on and off premises, which greatly reduces our hardware investment. They provide an all-in-one solution.”

After negotiations with the company, the sheriff’s team was able to lock in a reduced annual service fee of 2.5% for the last four years of the contract, according to Bianco. The customary fee is 5%, netting a potential savings of $849,665.

The total cost of the contract is estimated to be $20.14 million between the current fiscal year and 2029-2030. Most of the funds will be drawn from internal law enforcement sources, along with federal and state grants, not the county general fund.