March 8, 2013
Ben Weathers

A multimillion-dollar law enforcement dispatch system that has sat unplugged for more than a year is getting a “high priority” review by Anne Arundel County’s new technology chief.

Richard Durkee, director of the Department of Information Technology, made the comment in a joint phone interview Wednesday with John Hammond, the county’s chief administrative officer.

Durkee met Thursday with his staff to devise a way to get the Tiburon E-911 Computer-Aided-Dispatch-System back online.

“I’m going to take a look at the history of the project (to) understand all aspects,” Durkee said. “… I’m going to take a look at what went well in product development … to achieve the objectives we’re looking for.”

The system was shut down in December 2011 after just 21 days of service when police officers complained that it compromised their safety.

The system was purchased, along with a record management system, for $6.6 million in 2008. When the system first came online, police officers complained that the system didn’t provide specific addresses of businesses so that they could be located by dispatchers.

Likewise, dispatchers complained the system’s graphic interface was too complicated.

In addition to technical issues, police and fire officials said there was a lack of training prior to the system’s launch.

Durkee was named to the IT post in late February by new County Executive Laura Neuman, replacing William Ryan. He admitted he was still learning about the system.

“I don’t really know all the issues, but it’s something that needs to be looked into,” he said.

Durkee said that he was meeting with police officials on Friday and may discuss the system then.

The dispatch system also was used by the county fire department, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Department of Corrections. A records management component of the system has remained online since the initial launch.

After the system was unplugged, county officials first projected it would be relaunched in January 2012, then aimed for mid-March 2012.

Since then, the county has declined to give a timetable for when the system could come back online.

Hammond reiterated on Wednesday that the county would not set a timetable.

“We’re on it and moving forward,” Hammond said.

Since the system was unplugged, police and firefighters have reverted to the former dispatch system.

While the system appears to be functioning properly and county officials haven’t received any complaints, Hammond said there are questions about the system’s long-term outlook.

Hammond said it remained unclear how long a vendor would be able to support the system.