Information Governance (IG) is never the sexiest topic for organizations. Records retention policies are even less so. These policies are generally considered when business is slow, in response to a cyber breach, or post-audit by a regulator. While many businesses and organizations are proactively updating and reviewing their holistic IG strategy, many others postpone what they consider to be a non-revenue generating aspect of carrying on their business, or in the case of a government agency a non-core aspect of their work.
In yesterday’s Globe and Mail article it is reported that the RCMP has ordered a review of its Records Retention Policies in response to a finding by the Civilian Complaints and Review Commission that the RCMP destroyed various records and transcripts relating to the death of Coulton Boushie. This review makes it clear why having a records retention policy is only one part of good information governance. While the RCMP had a policy in place, that was not enough in this case. In addition to the records retention policy, organizations also need to ensure that the policy is being properly implemented and that it integrates with a Legal Hold Policy which creates a trigger for when records should be preserved.
Best practice guidelines in Canada tell us that a Legal Hold should be triggered by parties who safeguard records as soon as litigation is reasonably anticipated or when an investigation has commenced. In those cases, the retention period that allows for the disposition of records in the ordinary course of business must be immediately suspended so that the potentially sought after evidence is preserved.
The Civilian Complaints and Review Commission announced in March, 2018 that it was investigating the death of Colten Boushie. A civil suit launched by Mr. Boushie was also filed before August 2018. Despite those announcement, the RCMP deleted police radio and telephone calls when the two year retention period arose, but after they should have been aware of the investigation and possibly the litigation. A Legal Hold Policy would have triggered the preservation of these records as soon as the RCMP became aware of the investigation.
When developing an IG Strategy there are a series of policies and procedures that should all be in place to ensure data is properly managed. All together these make a defensible IG Strategy.
For more information about developing an IG strategy, contact Susan Wortzman at firstname.lastname@example.org.