October 1, 2021 – Seattle, Washington – Miller Mendel’s Founder, President & CEO Tyler Miller has released an open letter regarding serious public concerns about the Guardian Alliance Technologies background software.
December 2, 2021 – Seattle, Washington:Rylander & Associates PC filed a federal complaint on behalf of Miller Mendel, Inc. against the City of Anna, Texas, Police Department in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas alleging infringement of U.S. Patent 10,043,188 B2 (the ‘188 Patent) for a “Background Investigation Management Service”. The lawsuit alleges that the City of Anna, Texas and the Anna Police Department are infringing the ‘188 Patent through its use of the Guardian Alliance Technologies investigation software platform.
The patent infringement lawsuit filed against the City of Anna is the fourth (4th) lawsuit filed for patent infringement related to the Guardian Alliance Technologies background software. The other three patent infringement lawsuits have been filed in federal district courts of Alaska, Oklahoma and Oregon.
Miller Mendel’s Patents are Strong
In 2020, legal counsel for Guardian filed a petition for an “Inter Partes Review” (“IPR”) with the USPTO, asserting the MMI’s 10043188 patent covering certain features and functionality of the eSOPH system are invalid. The USPTO rejected Guardian’s IPR petition. Guardian appealed the USPTO’s decision and, in response, the USPTO issued another decision denying Guardian’s appeal. Guardian then filed a request for a USPTO Procedural Opinion Panel, which was also denied. On July 22, 2021, Guardian field a “Petitioner’s Request for Extension of Time” to file a Federal Circuit appeal, which the USPTO also denied. The USPTO IPR filings by Guardian were reviewed and decided by a panel of three qualified USPTO judges.
In 2021, Miller Mendel’s President and CEO drafted an open letterfurther discussing the patent infringement matter along with other serious, public concerns related to the Guardian background software.
About Miller Mendel
Miller Mendel, Inc. (“MMI”) creates, sells and supports its software technology solutions for city, county, state and federal public safety agencies. MMI’s primary focus is to turn past practices used by city, county, state and federal government agencies into modern, efficient and cost-effective digital solutions.
MMI is known for creating category-leading systems and providing responsive, exceptional support to all our clients. MMI places great pride in straightforward and transparent operational practices that foster a high level of respect and praise from our government clients.
MMI’s first and flagship service is eSOPH. eSOPH is a cloud-based software system designed specifically for public agencies who must process in-depth pre-employment background investigations on their applicants. eSOPH has been credited with cutting the time it takes to process a pre-employment background investigation by more than 50%, saving agencies significant time and money and allowing applicants to be hired more quickly.
MMI is a minority owned, small business. At Miller Mendel, diversity in the workplace means empowering a workforce that is inclusive of a broad range of human qualities. Workplace diversity is both a moral imperative and business strength, essential to providing quality support and services to our clients. Our goal is to attract, develop and retain highly skilled and talented individuals across the company who best reflect the diversity of clients.
Miller Mendel Contact:
Info @ MillerMendel.com
(206) 330 – 2094
On September 20, 2021, the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), once again, rejected Guardian Alliance Technologies’ attempt to invalidate Miller Mendel’s eSOPH US Patent No. 10,043,188. The decision by the USPTO details:
“The Board denied institution of Inter Partes Review (IPR) of the ’188 patent on March 26, 2020. Guardian requested Precedential Opinion Panel review, which was denied on June 16, 2020, and then requested panel rehearing, which was denied on July 27, 2020.”
“Because Guardian’s failure to comply with the deadline for filing an appeal was a deliberate legal decision, it cannot be excusable neglect. Guardian’s request is denied.” (Decision of USPTO)
Having been shut down three separate times, this is now a fourth rejection of Guardian’s attempts to invalidate Miller Mendel’s 188 Patent at the USPTO.
We all know this story. A terrific law enforcement candidate applies, sails through the hiring process, and starts their career journey. They’re eager to get aboard, drawn by camaraderie, the agency’s reputation, the interactions during the hiring process, the sense of accomplishment upon completing the academy, and the promise of an exciting career with an excellent compensation package.
Less than three years later, they’re gone. When asked why they are leaving they respond, “I got a better opportunity.” Law enforcement leaders shrug and rationalize the premature departure of a once-highly sought-after recruit as unavoidable because other agencies provided more pay or opportunities, or assume the employee wasn’t a good fit for the agency.
Many of the explanations are anecdotal or secondhand. Exit interviews rarely provide meaningful information, and even if they do, it’s too late. None of this information helps answer the critical question: what did we do, or not do, to retain them?
Recruiting is vital in today’s highly competitive job market, and retention is just as essential. Although they are distinct processes, recruiting and retention are intrinsically linked and can feed each other with important information to improve both outcomes. To better understand the effectiveness of an agency’s recruiting and retention efforts, leaders must blend statistical data with contextual and anecdotal information to paint the bigger picture and find effective solutions to keep their agency staffed. A starting point is collecting information at the critical steps of each process.
Getting interested candidates to apply is the first order of business. Catching and keeping a candidate’s attention is vital to feed the hiring pipeline. Recruiting takes many forms. There are flashy methods like billboards, wrapping patrol cars, an eye-catching recruiting booth, and unique giveaway items. There are also less formal recruiting methods such as positive community interactions with agency employees, like when a community member has a positive interaction with a dispatcher or responding officer. Interest can come from meeting a school resource officer, DARE officer, or even an officer in a coffee shop. The less formal recruiting tools are harder to quantify, but no less important. Continued engagement by recruiters with potential applicants helps keep applicants from dropping out during the hiring process.
You can gather details about what led the applicant to apply such as asking where the applicant first heard about the agency on the application form or tracking contacts via the recruiting website. Electronic background investigation software can easily collect detailed data to see where candidates drop out of the process. That information will be helpful to you in providing feedback to your recruiting and testing partners. An investment of time and resources into evaluating the effectiveness of these methods will pay rich dividends when incorporated with the other hiring data.
Welcome Aboard; Please Stay a While
Once the applicant is hired, the work on retention begins.
Like recruiting efforts, measuring retention efforts can be complicated. Retention efforts such as financial benefits, employee wellness programs, and recognition events are easy to capture and track. Other retention efforts are more difficult to define and quantify. How do you capture the importance of community support or impact of the sergeant who invests deeply in their people? How do you measure the impact of a compliment to a young officer from a senior executive about a case they worked on?
Larger agencies often assume that opportunities and compensation packages will retain employees. Nonetheless, large metropolitan agencies are seeing an exodus of officers to smaller, lower-paying suburban or even rural departments, where these smaller communities often provide a more supportive atmosphere for officers and a lower cost of living. Smaller agencies assume they cannot compete with the range of opportunities at large agencies. There are pitfalls in relying on national law enforcement data trends. Every region and agency is different and each agency needs to determine the factors that are relevant to retaining their employees.
It is axiomatic to say that if employees are satisfied with their job they are more likely to stay. Obviously, attrition rates are one indicator of job satisfaction. However, it would be helpful to capture job satisfaction data before an employee leaves the agency. This gives the agency more options to devise systems to reduce attrition.
An agency can be successful at recruiting without successful retention. If there is poor retention, the agency will continually need to fill vacancies. Conversely, an agency can be successful at retention without successful recruiting. There are agencies that create an environment where employees stay through retirement, yet because they have not been building a recruiting network, they struggle to build an applicant pool when they need to hire new employees.
This is where the relationship between recruiting and retention becomes clear. Recruiting is more than just getting people’s attention to apply for a job; it’s retaining the right candidates throughout the process and using that retention to generate interest in your department. Successful recruiting includes retaining the candidates that align with your department’s needs and values. Successful retention is recruiting your employees to come back to work every day.
Viewing recruiting and retention as interconnected systems that need to be nurtured will help frame an agency’s staffing efforts. So, how do you gather data, measure success, and identify areas for improvement?
Programs Cannot Live on Numbers Alone – Put them in Context and Evaluate Often
“How many applicants did we have?”
Often this is the main question asked of the recruiting team. If the number is high, department leaders feel their hiring program is working. If the number is low, they may feel efforts are failing. However, the number of candidates is only a starting point to evaluate the effectiveness of your recruiting. It is important to also measure the yield from these numbers all the way through retention to see how the applicant pool matches department needs.
The phrase “statistical-based recruitment and retention” creates daunting visions of spreadsheets, graphs, columns, and numbers. The data is powerful and useful, but the operational value of these numbers is gained when they are viewed through the lens of long-term agency goals. Are these numbers supporting your mission? To put these numbers in context, it is important to know your agency’s “why.” Why are you putting effort into recruiting, testing, backgrounding, hiring, training? What value and service do you hope to provide to the community and the candidates through your efforts? Keeping your “why” in mind is critical when evaluating each step of a recruitment and retention program. This will help provide more context to the data and help you to align your processes to your department values and staffing needs.
You can probably gather the hard data from your HR information systems: the number of applicants applied, where they heard about the opening, how many drop out before testing, how many pass the test, how many graduate from the academy, how many pass probation, how long an employee stays with the agency. This is all important information for both recruiting and retention. Gathering the other information is more difficult and requires a variety of methods. This information can be gleaned from surveys, interviews, and conversations with stakeholders. Sitting down with a newly-hired officer to find out, in their own words, why they chose the agency is far more enlightening than simply counting them as a check mark in the “hired” category and letting that be the sole statistic they generate until they decide to leave.
Evaluate the data collected from the hiring process. Are initial application numbers low? Is the area the agency serves experiencing low unemployment due to a glut of private sector opportunities or increases in the cost of living? Is there a particularly negative story in the media about the agency? Consider your regional hiring landscape to re-evaluate the recruiting and retention strategies. Look for areas where you lose a large number of candidates. Why is the attrition happening at this point? Did they fail an exam or screening criteria? Do you have the appropriate pass rates at each screening stage? For candidates who voluntarily withdraw, follow up to determine why they dropped out of the process. Take this information and go back to your why – do criteria at each of these screening stages give results that support your agency’s mission and values?
Gather important insight from a cross-section of department employees by tenure and assignment, both sworn and non-sworn. Send surveys to employees reaching significant career milestones, allowing for anonymous feedback. Ask employees why they’ve stayed. Ask them if they’re thinking of leaving and if so, ask why. A survey like this yields better results if it incorporates both numerical ratings and the ability to freely express thoughts in the form of open-ended questions. Relying on staffing numbers alone can be misleading. An agency with 300 officers might congratulate itself for its retention efforts if 15 officers from an academy class stay for 10 years, but would they pat themselves on the back the same way if they knew 10 of those officers were actively pondering leaving the agency or the profession altogether? Gathering feedback should be a regular and meaningful process.
Don’t just collect information, evaluate and analyze it.
Embrace the information you are collecting. Dedicate resources to gather and analyze it. Learn about emerging technologies that can provide more detailed data about candidates who visit your websites or hiring portals. Understand the best way to communicate with your candidates to keep them interested and engaged. (Spoiler alert – it’s texting.) But beware – data and data gathering tools cannot replace people. The nuances of providing public safety cannot be solely quantified. Law enforcement agencies should be data informed rather than data driven by the numbers. Partner with your municipal auditing resources or academic partners to design reliable data collection and analysis tools. Data should be a beacon to lead you to ask more questions and propose new processes to engage and retain your employees.
Capturing and reviewing data such as attrition rates can identify vital trends
If a statistical-based recruitment and retention program is to be successful, investment from stakeholders is crucial. Assemble a team to evaluate the data and provide feedback and new ideas to the agency. This team should represent a cross-section of the agency and include external stakeholders. Augment your efforts by engaging department members and stakeholders to become recruiters and partners in retention. Share recruitment and retention data in the agency’s annual reports and on the agency website. Highlight unique approaches to engage potential recruits, such as the connection between an uptick in applicants to an officer mentoring and connecting with young people at the local skate park. It gives others permission to be creative and broaden the depth of the agency’s talent pool.
After you assemble a team to assess hiring and retention, keep them informed and engaged. Ask for their input and provide feedback to the team about the implementation status of any recommendations and results of those recommendations that were implemented. Share the information gathered from internal surveys and humbly acknowledge areas needing improvement. Sharing information about the areas identified for improvement and the adjustments undertaken to fix them demonstrates a commitment by the agency to serve their employees and the community.
We’re All In This Together
Implementing a statistical-based and data-informed recruitment and retention program may sound daunting, but it can be accomplished. It can be a valuable internal and external tool and the basis for evidence-based conversations about appropriate staffing levels for public safety agencies. The program can be scaled to any size agency and can be started with data you’re probably already gathering but have not aggregated for a holistic view of agency staffing. Recruiting and retention is a continuous and interconnected process that should regularly be evaluated and adjusted using soft and hard data. Looking at the data and the context behind those numbers gives agencies the ability to proactively address recruiting and retention challenges and more efficiently serve their community.
Learn why agencies of all sizes across the nation have transitioned to the eSOPH background investigation software system by Miller Mendel
Now more than ever, applicant screening has become a key challenge for law enforcement agencies. Police and sheriff’s departments need to know who they are hiring, and public scrutiny has increased greatly following the protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody in May 2020.
Background investigation has traditionally been time-consuming and costly, but the right background investigation software can aid investigators by accelerating the process and giving them more advanced tools, better-organized content and the ability to get more information about each applicant.
Many departments across the country use eSOPH – short for “electronic statement of personal history” – from Miller Mendel, a platform that helps streamline and enhance the hiring process through integrations with applications that check an applicant’s credit, social media and other elements, and includes features like answer tracking, electronic reference requests and customizable documents and reports.
Background investigators using the system have consistently reported the software reducing the time for each investigation by more than 50%.
“Our department underwent an analysis that resulted in reassigning many sworn background investigators back to patrol and other high-demand units,” said Captain Evan Petersen of the Riverside County (California) Sheriff’s Department. “With this reduction in the number of sworn background investigators, eSOPH became the essential catalyst we needed for the remaining RCSD and contract investigators to be able to process more background investigations with fewer investigators. eSOPH not only allows our investigators to handle more cases at a given time, but our investigators also gained access to efficiency tools they didn’t have before.”
The CJIS-compliant, cloud-based eSOPH suite has been used by public safety agencies since 2011. It turns a traditionally paper-based process into a fully electronic process and tracks all activity to keep a record of who did what in the background investigation, along with the date and time. This eliminates the risk of a paper getting lost or removed from a file and helps ensure that each file contains all the necessary elements for review.
Here are six ways eSOPH can help investigators dig deep to learn more about applicants faster and more securely.
Every agency has different needs, so no system is going be one-size-fits-all. The eSOPH platform is fully customizable so that users can comply with local policies and regulations, as well as manage workflows the way that works best for their agency.
With eSOPH, agencies can use the templates provided, or they can build an unlimited number of their own unique questionnaires, agreements, task lists, exams, reference packets and other documents specific to each position.
You can also customize and manage references by position and reference type, with a customized cover letter, applicant’s release/waivers and a questionnaire. Applicants and references can upload documents and images electronically, reducing time and eliminating paper.
At the administrative level, eSOPH allows departments to add, edit and manage an unlimited number of agency users and permission groups. Different permission levels for different system users helps control access and ensure compliance with privacy regulations.
When entering an applicant into the system, simply select the position the applicant has applied for within the system, and eSOPH will send all questionnaires and other documents to be completed online, specific to the position the applicant applied for.
When applicants and references enter data into the system, eSOPH auto-populates dates, recipient names, addresses, agency names, position names and other information across the application without manual data entry. This helps accelerate processing and leaves less room for error.
When the applicant has completed their background documents, the assigned agency user is notified. The built-in tools help reduce the labor required from the background investigator, such as automatic electronic reference generation and receiving abilities. They also make it easier on the applicant and enable faster response and results.
Nobody likes having to manage separate logins or toggle between programs that don’t talk to each other. To help reduce frustration and save time, eSOPH includes integrations with third-party software applications, from Microsoft Word to credit reporting through Experian, to give investigators access to multiple critical tools in a single platform:
Use Microsoft Word to create, edit and save reference documents, letters to applicants, and each investigator’s narrative reports. All documents are saved directly in the applicant’s file within eSOPH.
Request a basic or comprehensive social media and online activity screening report from Social Intelligence. All results that meet defined screening criteria are captured by a trained professional and inserted into a report before that report is released to the applicant’s file within eSOPH.
Request a consumer credit report from Experian for the applicant’s file with the simple click of a button – no additional data entry needed.
Addresses are validated in real time against the USPS database to ensure accuracy for both applicants and references.
Further, all contact with applicants can be made electronically through email for easy tracking throughout the process. This makes it faster to reach out to applicants and references alike, and it’s especially helpful as agencies recruit younger “digital natives” who expect the ease of electronic communication.
“Since implementing eSOPH, we have seen an increase in reference responses, as references can electronically access the questionnaires and complete them at their own desired time,” said Stephen Cox, workforce planning manager for the Oregon Department of Corrections, a client of eSOPH since 2015.
The eSOPH platform supports custom task lists for applicants and investigators, as well as exam tracking and reporting to help ensure that applicants submit all necessary information and that background investigations are completed in a uniform manner, and all pre-employment steps are documented in one place.
Users can choose from dozens of report templates configured by their agency’s admin user or create their own custom reports. Investigators simply select the report template they want to use and eSOPH auto-populates numerous report fields/sections automatically within the Microsoft Word report document, saving time and reducing the potential for error.
The software also allows agencies to flag specific responses to specific questions to create a triage report that helps investigators quickly prescreen applicants for automatic disqualifiers.
5. NETWORKING WITH OTHER AGENCIES
Over 70,000 applicants have been entered into the eSOPH system by various public safety agencies throughout the country, and the system provides the opportunity to network with other public safety agencies for additional information regarding mutual applicants.
When conducting local checks as part of the investigation, investigators can search courts and law enforcement agencies by name or use the patented “search by radius” feature that focuses on a specified area around a given applicant’s current and past residences. The system auto-fills the name, address and all other contact information for the other agencies for follow-up by an investigator.
With a click of a button, the system can fax these checks to law enforcement agencies and courts directly from the system. Faxed responses from other agencies will be automatically routed into the correct applicant file, and a notification about the filing being updated is immediately sent to the investigator – no manual scanning and uploading needed.
In 2019, background investigators for the King County Sheriff’s Office (Washington)uploaded close to 13,500 documents into applicant files. In 2020, the agency processed more applicants yet manually uploaded less than 3,000 documents after implementing the eSOPH smart fax service that routes received faxes directly to the correct applicant files.
Users also can share specific applicant information electronically with other agencies, polygraph examiners, medical providers, psychologists and other third parties.
“Being able to electronically and securely share files with other agencies using eSOPH has been a great benefit,” said Cox.
6. SECURE ONLINE ACCESS & STORAGE
Because it is hosted on the AWS GovCloud platform, eSOPH requires no local IT resources other than a computer with internet access. This provides easy access to investigators and reviewers along with cybersecurity protections, as AWS GovCloud meets or exceeds regulatory requirements relevant to CJIS, HIPAA, FedRAMP and many other compliance regimes.
“The ability for a unit supervisor to electronically review files from anywhere they can access the internet has proven to be a significant benefit. There’s no longer the need to transfer large paper files up the chain and for other supervisors to lose access to that file as it makes its way through the approval process,” said Petersen. “We also like that the file is secure on an electronic system – there’s no sensitive paper file tracking to be concerned with.”
The data in eSOPH is backed up in real time and saved in redundant, separate geographical locations. Agencies are able to control how long records are kept on the system through configurable, granular automated archive and purging polices. Additionally, agencies are able to download and keep the data on their agency’s internal network or storage devices. There are no limits to the size/amount of data per applicant file.
Law enforcement agencies need to know who they are hiring, and background investigators play a critical role. The more information they collect through a platform like eSOPH, the better they will be able to screen applicants and hire the best possible candidates.
“The software doesn’t replace the background investigator – it enhances their ability to do their job by saving them time and energy without sacrificing quality,” said Tyler Miller, president & CEO of Miller Mendel. “eSOPH gives the investigators more tools, better organized content and the ability to get information they didn’t have before – all while completing the background investigation in half the time. eSOPH has been a huge win for our clients and has really fostered the public trust aspect so many law enforcement agencies are looking for in today’s climate.”
With a population of over 106,000, Boulder, Colorado, is nestled in the Flatiron foothills about 30 miles northwest of Denver. The city is home to the main University of Colorado campus and multiple high-tech and natural foods companies.
Boulder Police Department serves this community with about 185 sworn officers and 100 non-sworn personnel. The department accepts and manages applications and background investigations completely online, which helps expedite the hiring process. According to HR Services Coordinator Diane Herzberg, the department is always looking for new talent.
About four years ago, Herzberg was asked to find a secure electronic method to gather candidate pre-employment background information for Boulder PD’s background investigators. The department had been using a 13-page document that applicants had to fill out by hand. While attending a conference, she heard good things about web-based eSOPH by Miller Mendel from the folks with the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia and asked them for more information.
“That was a big plus, the fact that a big department like DC was using it, so it was proven,” Herzberg said.
Closer to home, she also reached out to Colorado Springs PD and visited with them to check out eSOPH in action. Based on those conversations, the software seemed to offer everything Boulder PD was looking for. They decided to adopt eSOPH, a fully online system designed to help law enforcement agencies request, accept and process pre-employment background investigation information in a secure and CJIS-compliant cloud-based platform.
HOW A CLOUD APPROACH HELPS BOULDER PD DO MORE
In addition to a team of background investigators, Boulder PD uses a rotating group of light-duty and retired officers to conduct the necessary background investigations of candidates.
“We generally draw on people from our department that are on light duty. We have even had a couple of retirees conduct backgrounds,” said Herzberg, “and eSOPH definitely made that easier.”
Because the information is stored securely in the cloud, eSOPH makes it possible for Boulder’s background investigators to review applicant files on any web-connected device anytime, anywhere. All the department needs to do is make sure the investigator has a department-issued laptop, says Herzberg. This flexibility means investigators can pick up candidates midstream and the department can grow the pool of active background investigators as needed.
By providing a modern, paperless application process, eSOPH also helps the department avoid the potential pitfalls of collecting and sharing information via email and storing paper files. Protecting the sensitive personal information submitted by applicants is a key benefit of using eSOPH, she adds.
“I don’t worry about it. Miller Mendel is so on top of security of the system that I feel more comfortable now that we’re using it than before,” said Herzberg. “People aren’t emailing files and other information that shouldn’t be sent through email, and I don’t think there’s a risk for the information that’s stored in eSOPH to go anywhere it shouldn’t.”
She can also rest easy knowing that the department’s data is backed up. In addition to CJIS-compliant cybersecurity-type protections, data stored in eSOPH is backed up in real time, and the agency controls how long records are kept before being archived or purged.
HOW ESOPH WORKS
The eSOPH (short for “electronic statement of personal history”) platform, designed specifically for law enforcement agencies, supports the hiring process with tools that import an applicant’s credit report and social media activity, as well as other information. When applicants and references enter data into the system, eSOPH auto-populates that information across the applicant’s file, saving significant investigator time and eliminating potential for data entry errors across multiple areas of the investigation.
Putting everything online makes the process easier and more appealing for today’s applicants, who have come to expect the ease of electronic communication. And with eSOPH, the system automatically directs the applicant to the right questionnaires and other requirements based on what position they’re applying for. The system also automates the sending of relevant documents to be completed online, including contacting the references listed by the applicant or added by the investigator.
“We created each questionnaire to mirror what we’d been asking on paper,” said Herzberg. “We have definitely created it to be specific and appropriate to the position.”
The eSOPH system also eases the documentation burden for the department. Each applicant’s information is stored and tracked in a comprehensive file, and the system provides reporting and alerts to track progress and log every activity that occurs related to each applicant’s background investigation.
Herzberg credits Tyler Miller, founder, president and CEO of Miller Mendel, with providing continuous support to make the transition from paper to eSOPH a smooth one.
“Once we started really engaging with eSOPH, Tyler was so helpful and super responsive and very patient,” she said. “He came out and walked us through it.”
Herzberg appreciates the ongoing personal service, availability and guidance. Although making the shift from paper to electronic took a little convincing for her team at first, she now says everyone is delighted with how quick and easy it is with eSOPH. Many agencies using eSOPH report that they are able to complete each applicant background investigation in about half the time required for a manual, paper-based process.
“The initial transition when we went from paper copy to electronic was a little bit of a sell because people were asking, ‘What? Where do we take our notes?’” she said. “But almost as soon as they started using it, everybody’s on board with it. They realized how much easier it is.”
SEARCHING SOCIAL MEDIA FASTER, MORE THOROUGHLY, MORE CONSISTENTLY
Herzberg says the adjustments and improvements that Miller Mendel has made to eSOPH since her agency initially came on board have helped greatly and demonstrate that the company is responsive and willing to try new things to help their customers.
Two recent improvements to the eSOPH platform that Herzberg says have proved particularly valuable to her team are the social media reports and the credit reports:
Through the Social Intelligence tool, background investigators can request a basic or comprehensive social media and online activity screening report prepared by a trained professional and added to the applicant’s eSOPH file.
With a click of a button, the investigator can obtain a consumer credit report from Experian, which automatically imports into the applicant’s file. To help agencies comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the system automatically notifies and makes a free copy of the credit report available to the applicant.
“That was a huge time saver for me, because I was having to do all the credit checks for the investigators, and that was just a pain in the neck,” she said. “And the social media piece is much more comprehensive and consistent than what we were able to do in house.”
Rather than labor-intensive Google searches by each investigator, eSOPH can obtain a comprehensive social media report with just a few button clicks. The report posts to the applicant’s file within a day or two, and if something is flagged, the investigator can view a screenshot of the concerning content and follow up as needed.
“The social media screening report we receive through eSOPH includes multiple different online sources for any online activity that the applicant has, and it comes back with a report that contains a narrative,” said Herzberg. “Before that, I’d tell people, ‘Please Google the applicant, check on Facebook, check on Instagram’ – I can’t even think of the number of places, as it’s changed over the years, but just trying to get out there and see what kind of a presence the applicant has had. The report through eSOPH is more consistent and comprehensive.”
Someone recently asked about paperwork required for the background investigation process, she says – and she was happy to answer that there isn’t any.
“eSOPH has made everything so much easier,” she said.
Sgt. Ryan Brett leads the personnel and training division of the Corona Police Department in California. The division – Brett, plus one full-time background investigator and one part-time background investigator – manages hiring, recruiting, testing and training efforts for the department of about 250 sworn officers and professional staff, including thorough background investigations for dozens of candidates each year.
Brett, a 25-year veteran officer, was assigned to the police department’s personnel unit in January 2019 and quickly discovered the mountains of paperwork background investigations generate. Looking for a more efficient solution, he heard about eSOPH – an electronic platform for collecting and processing candidate background information – which came highly recommended by a colleague at the county sheriff’s office. Corona PD adopted eSOPH in mid-2019.
Here, Brett tells Police1 why he chose eSOPH and how it has helped the department vet and hire candidates faster. (The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.)
YOU ADOPTED ESOPH ABOUT TWO YEARS AGO. HOW WERE YOU HANDLING BACKGROUND INVESTIGATIONS BEFORE THAT?
We were using standard binders and just reams of paper. It was frustrating to have to thumb through them all.
And the thing that I absolutely hated was sending out reference packets – filling out envelopes, folding papers, putting on stamps, walking it down to the department mail – and then waiting. That was the biggest sticking point. It was just too much work. So we would wait on things that we may never even receive, and that would delay our process significantly.
Now I just confirm that the contact information the applicant has put in their references is valid, hit “send” and get immediate feedback that the reference requests have successfully been sent. I just sit back and wait for them to return automatically to the folder, where I review them and add them to the report. Easy breezy.
DO REFERENCES RESPOND MORE NOW THAT THE PROCESS IS ELECTRONIC?
Yes, now we get them really quickly. Once we started using eSOPH, I learned immediately about the electronic reference collection through either email or fax. So now these references are getting the notifications that there’s a request from a police department on their email on their phone, as most people are connected now. So it just takes them two to three minutes to type in on their phone or laptop or home computer and respond right back to us, and we get the response typically within one to three days – sometimes immediately.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU AND YOUR TEAM TO GET UP TO SPEED?
eSOPH is very user-intuitive. As the supervisor, I not only had to learn the user end, I also had to learn the administrative side, and the flexibility of being able to create my own files, create our templates, install our letterhead and manipulate it from the back end is super easy.
I brought another police officer in to help out with some backgrounds for a short period of time when we were backlogged, and I was able to show her how to work the system in about an hour and a half. It’s pretty self-explanatory for background investigators, and it’s kind of hard to mess up because there are task lists in the software.
HOW HAS THIS TOOL IMPROVED THE HIRING PROCESS FOR YOUR DEPARTMENT OVERALL?
In a nutshell, it has absolutely sped up our ability to take in background information from prospective candidates and process them in a real-time scenario.
Very early on, if one of my candidates is putting in something that’s going to be disqualifying eventually or something that I know my command staff would not tolerate, I can call them up right away and say, “Look, stop. We’re not going to be able to continue with you,” or we can ask them some clarifying questions and maybe clear it up. That’s saving us time in processing all these candidates that we know we can’t go further with anyway.
The other benefit for the agency side is the reduction for records retention and being able to store them in a cloud-based server, which eSOPH provides. We export to a PDF, and they’re all available on a database – and we don’t have to have a whole room full of old binders collecting space.
MOST DEPARTMENTS ESTIMATE FOUR TO SIX MONTHS TO PROCESS A CANDIDATE FROM APPLICATION TO OFFER. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO PROCESS NOW WITH ESOPH?
I’m finding four to six weeks to be an accurate average for a person to be at the stage where we’re prepared to offer them a full job.
I have a candidate right now who is the fastest yet. She got her eSOPH invitation to start her background, and in three days she had all of her information submitted to me. Three days later, I have her file about 80% done. We’re just waiting on the appointments, like a polygraph and a psychological and medical exam, but she could technically be hired in about three weeks total. She’s very unusual, but on average, it’s absolutely 50% faster.
We’re also able to tell at what step someone washed out, whether it was the polygraph or the psychological tests – eSOPH breaks down the process for the staff all the way down to where they were hired or discontinued. My chief can look in eSOPH, and right away he can see how many people we have entered, how many are in prescreening, where they’re at in the process and how many are over in review at HR waiting for signing.
HOW DOES ESOPH HELP YOU HIRE BETTER OFFICERS?
There is a feature that will flag disqualifying answers or potential disqualifying information to draw our attention. The investigator still has to go in and manually read their questions and answers, but it’s harder to miss things.
For example, if we’re reading one of our police trainees’ files and a question maybe in drug use will show a flag, we can click that little indicator to take us right to that question. At that point we can determine whether it violates our policy or is an acceptable practice at this agency.
The other thing that is fantastic is the ability for agencies to share the electronic backgrounds back and forth. That’s helping us increase the quality of candidates that we’re actually hiring. It’s keeping our candidates a little more honest, knowing that you can’t lie to one agency and then go try and lie to the other one to get hired.
The more agencies that get on eSOPH, the more effective we can be at hiring good candidates because of that information sharing.
HOW DOES THAT INFORMATION SHARING WORK?
It’s automatic. eSOPH is saying this person already has a file, so you may want to come look at it. Usually background investigators are super-cooperative with each other, as long as there’s a waiver involved.
As an example, two people that are just entering our process have already been entered in eSOPH by another agency. eSOPH shows there’s already been a background done on them and they’ve probably been disqualified, so my investigator knows that they have to reach out to that agency. When I open the flag, it shows that they applied at X police department, and there’s a hyperlink. So I would just click it, and my email would pop up to email them right away.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST OVERALL BENEFIT OF ESOPH TO YOU AND YOUR BACKGROUND INVESTIGATORS?
This is a small to midsize agency with only one real full-time investigator and myself. I see what my main investigator can handle – I think she had 14 backgrounds she was working at one time. And the way eSOPH is organized, there was no confusion with 14 packets laid across the table. She was able to balance that and maintain her trajectory. Before, when I came into the unit, the other investigator had his binders laid out and could really only work one or two at a time before getting overwhelmed with paper everywhere. It’s just a neat, clean way to handle backgrounds. Also, we can work from home, in the field or in our office.
I think the biggest benefit for me is the ability for a smaller number of investigators to handle a much larger volume of backgrounds without getting confused or overwhelmed. It’s very easy to run multiple backgrounds and stay focused on the returns because they all come into their individual folders.
Seattle, Washington – February 3, 2021: On February 1, 2021, attorneys for Miller Mendel filed a second patent infringement lawsuit related to use of the Guardian Alliance Technologies background investigation software. The complaint in the most recent lawsuit, filed in Oregon Federal District Court, alleges Washington County Sheriff’s Office infringes on Miller Mendel’s U.S. Patent 10,043,188 B2, through its use of the Guardian Alliance Technologies background investigation software. Miller Mendel believes based on records it has obtained that the Washington County Sheriff’s Office knew of Miller Mendel’s patent and proceeded forward nevertheless, which Miller Mendel contends constitutes willful infringement of Miller Mendel’s patent rights.
In 2018, attorneys for Miller Mendel filed the first patent infringement lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed against Oklahoma City Police Department for their use of Guardian Alliance Technologies background investigation software. Since filing the lawsuit against Oklahoma City, Guardian Alliance Technologies, through their legal counsel, sought to challenge the ‘188 Patent in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) through a petition for Inter Partes Review. Guardian Alliance Technologies contended the ‘188 Patent was not valid. The USPTO judges who heard the case denied Guardian Alliance Technologies’ petition. Miller Mendel maintains confidence that its patents are valid and were correctly issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, after, in the case of the ‘188 Patent, a 39 month examination process.
To read more about Guardian Alliance Technologies’ failed attempts to invalidate Miller Mendel’s patents, click here.
Miller Mendel has also filed a complaint in Oklahoma Federal District Court against Guardian Alliance Technologies for defamation. Miller Mendel is confident it will prevail in its effort to enforce its intellectual property/patent rights and further safeguard its patents, as well as a secure successful verdict for defamation against Guardian Alliance Technologies.
Miller Mendel will continue to take enforcement action for patent infringement against additional parties, as necessary to protect its intellectual property rights.
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Sacramento, California – January 26, 2021: Today, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) transitioned to eSOPH, the industry-leading background investigation software system by Miller Mendel. eSOPH is specifically designed for law enforcement background investigations of applicants seeking employment in the criminal justice field. The CDCR evaluated at least three other software systems before ultimately selecting eSOPH. By implementing eSOPH, CDCR will reduce their background investigation time by approximately 50% and gain access to tools and other cost-saving efficiencies.
The CDCR intends to process approximately 7,000 background investigations within the first 12-months. The CDCR will also be utilizing the integrated social media screening service, Experian credit report service, and the eSOPH smart fax service. The advanced smart fax service allows investigators to fax reference/local checks with the click of a button, and facilitates the automatic routing of received faxes directly into the correct applicant file, requiring no manual uploading by the background investigator.
ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is the state agency in California responsible for the state prison and parole system. It was formed in 1885 and is headquartered in Sacramento, California. The CDCR is organized into six divisions: Division of Adult Institutions; Division of Adult Parole Operations; Division of Health Care Services; Facility Planning, Construction and Management; Division of Juvenile Justice; and the Division of Rehabilitative Programs. The CDCR employs over 66,800 sworn peace officers and non-sworn support personnel.
ABOUT MILLER MENDEL
Miller Mendel, Inc. (“MMI”) creates, sells, and supports its software technology solutions for local, state, and federal public safety agencies and is the holder of two patents (U.S. Patent No. 9070098 and U.S. Patent No. 10043188) related to the features of its flagship product, eSOPH. Our primary focus is to turn past practices used by city, county, and state governments into efficient and cost-effective electronic solutions. MMI is known for creating category-leading systems and providing responsive, exceptional support to all our clients. We place great pride in straightforward and transparent operational practices that foster a high level of respect and praise from our government clients.
Miller Mendel Contact:
The background investigation may be the most critical element in hiring a new officer. This labor-intensive process usually takes months and has traditionally resulted in reams of paperwork. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Cloud-based technology is making it easier to quickly and securely connect applicants, references and investigators, as well as to provide at-your-fingertips access to reviewers and decision-makers.
Looking to update its processes for the digital age, the Riverside County (Calif.) Sheriff’s Department adopted the eSOPH platform from Miller Mendel for its candidate background investigations. Captain Evan Petersen, the department’s hiring executive, says the system has been a godsend that has cut their processing time in half and has given investigators additional tools they didn’t previously have.
“A traditional background would take anywhere from six to nine months,” he said. “By implementing eSOPH, we’ve reduced that down to a 90-day process, without sacrificing quality or compromising applicant privacy rights.”
In addition to the time saved, eSOPH helps the department cut down drastically on its use of paper. Petersen describes the traditional hiring process in law enforcement as “a massive paper machine.”
“At every hiring meeting of every single peace officer, the background investigator or the hiring sergeant would present a voluminous binder,” he said. “All of us always thought, ‘Why do we have to go through hundreds of pages of actual paper? There’s got to be a better way.’”
Petersen says the RCSD was looking to modernize and streamline its process so the department could A, keep up the pace of hiring with fewer full-time investigators, and B, cut down on the expense of creating and storing large paper files.
The capability to log in anywhere and review information in the background file from a desktop or mobile device, rather than printing and passing around huge binders one reviewer at a time, made eSOPH very attractive to the department.
“We knew we couldn’t keep going with this archaic system of multiple hard copies and creating hundreds and hundreds of pages of what ultimately would be this person’s background investigation file,” said Petersen. “We had to get with the times and transition to digital files with a cloud-based access point that would allow us to review things anywhere, anytime. This easy, flexible access made so much more sense as we were looking at improving our overall hiring practices to reflect today’s standards and expectations.”
FASTER AND EASIER
The department of roughly 2,000 sworn deputies – the third largest sheriff’s department in the nation – attracts thousands of applicants per year, says Petersen, and easy remote access helps the team of background investigators and management process those applications in a timely manner when working at the office or another location.
“We’re a large agency, so I have a lot of people come through the front door,” he said. “eSOPH made it so that the review and transmission of information happened instantaneously and kept the process moving and in a more secure manner.”
Getting set up with eSOPH was fast and easy, Petersen adds. In the year following adoption, the department hired about 600 deputy sheriff trainees and corrections officers, the most applicants hired in a year in the department’s history. The software also makes it easier to respond to applicants and to request additional information from applicants or references when needed.
“I’d say eSOPH 100% contributed to modernizing and expanding our hiring capabilities,” he said. “It truly provided that ease of information sharing that is so critical in a law enforcement background process. Applicants could quickly and easily submit information, and we could review and respond to that information on the fly versus having to wait for the applicant to mail the information or deliver the information in person.”
COMPREHENSIVE AND TRANSPARENT
Petersen says he appreciates how eSOPH enables his team to compile and present a comprehensive file for each applicant, as well as the transparency offered by having all the information in one place. Similar to a chain of custody, the system tracks all activity on each background file and provides useful reporting and alerts for missing elements or looming deadlines.
“It’s thorough and comprehensive,” he said. “I can look at the applicant’s questionnaires and quickly review the ‘yes’ answers the applicant gave us on any question, which helps reduce review time tremendously. I can easily click on a tab within the applicant’s file and look at different elements of the file all on one screen that’s really easy to navigate. Having everything I need in one place really reduces the complexity of the review process and allows me as a decision-maker to focus on the critical information sooner.”
The background investigators love it because of the single access point they can go to at any time, he adds.
“I’m a huge fan,” said Petersen. “I never want to return to the old paper-based process.”
REACH APPLICANTS WHERE THEY ARE
Another benefit, says Petersen, is a modern interface that enables the RCSD to better reach 20-something digital native applicants who expect everything to happen online. The ability to interact with potential new hires with a few taps of their smartphones is proving to be a critical advantage.
“The applicants appreciate the ease of use and convenience that comes with using a digital system,” he said. “We hear, ‘Oh, let me just shoot you that from my phone,’ and boom, it’s there in their file in eSOPH. The eSOPH system addresses the needs and preferences of the new generation of applicants that are more tech-savvy and delivers a solution that benefits all parties.”
From reducing the department’s background investigation processing time by half to providing easier access for reviewers and applicants alike, Petersen says eSOPH gets the job done.
“I truly feel that it’s been a game-changer for the way we conduct investigations,” he said. “eSOPH has given us all that I could ask for.”