Megan Cassidy, The Republic |

A technological overhaul in Phoenix police records management has been delayed for several months, costing nearly $80,000 each month the system launch stalls.

A technological overhaul in Phoenix police records management has been delayed for several months, costing nearly $80,000 each month the system launch stalls.

Officials say law-enforcement priorities and interface glitches are to blame for the holdups, and police are forced to keep the existing, nearly 30-year-old system running until its successor goes live.

The upgrades have been more than two years and $30 million in the making.

“The system that we’ve been using, PACE, quite frankly it no longer represents law enforcement technology … it doesn’t represent technology,” said Sgt. Trent Crump, a Phoenix police spokesman. “It’s an antiquated system that we have needed desperately to upgrade.”

At its core, the new system, inPURSUIT, will allow information sharing across dozens of separate platforms.

For example, rather than a homicide detective manually cross-referencing a suspect or license plate number with vehicular crimes, information will be automatically available to all through a single entry point.

The system will also interface with outside entities that regularly work with police, including prosecutors and the jail system.

Bumpy launches

Phoenix police are afforded the benefit of learning from other agencies’ mistakes.

In a rollout of comparable scale, the Dallas Police Department went online with inPURSUIT in June and a representative for the agency said administrators found that reports seemed to vanish into cyberspace and officers were calling IT with issues 10 to 15 times an hour.

Many of the officers had simply forgotten their training by the time it went live, said Lt. Kimberly Owens, commander of operational technology at Dallas Police.

And it turned out, the files weren’t lost but left in cyberspace limbo — older model computers couldn’t handle how quickly the data was processed and were bogged down by information. Hardware upgrades were necessary to match the massive data input.

“In hindsight, if we would have addressed the public up front a little better, and if we had found a better way to market it to the officers, we might have met with fewer complaints,” she said.

Officials said most of the issues had resolved themselves by the end of the first month.

“We went from a 27-year-old mainframe, agency-wide, in one day,” Owens said. “Which, in the technology world, was pretty good for such a massive rollout.”

Call for upgrades

The need for a records management upgrade became painfully apparent in 2011, after police officials were accused of inflating 2008 kidnapping statistics to win federal grant money.

The allegations prompted an exhaustive review of the kidnapping figures. Although the panel found no evidence of an orchestrated effort to inflate statistics, the probe underlined several failures in record-keeping and reporting.

According to the report, at least 100 cases were misclassified as kidnappings in 2008, while more than 400 cases that should have been labeled kidnappings were excluded.

In 2012, Phoenix police received about $30 million in grants and city funding earmarked for the upgrades.

After a series of focus groups, surveys and requests for proposals, Phoenix ultimately landed on Alabama-based Intergraph Corporation, entering into a $7 million contract.

The remaining $23 million would finance the infrastructure needed to support the new system, including new mobile digital terminals, desktops and laptops.

Police set an “aggressive” target launch date for mid-July 2014, later pushing the date back to the end of October, and then delaying the rollout yet again.

The cost of keeping PACE alive in the meantime is $79,000 a month. The charges started accruing in mid-November, and police say there is no firm date to go online with inPURSUIT.

Police will also need to provide refresher training for about 4,000 employees, in an effort to sidestep the uncomfortable rollout suffered in Dallas.

But it’s unclear at this point how much the project will spill over the anticipated budget, Crump said, adding that there is still funding available from the original $30 million.

Crump said Phoenix police will absorb any additional costs within the agency’s operating budget.

Police made the decision to push back the launch to prioritize Super Bowl security planning ajnd a reorganization of the city’s boundaries.

Other postponements are attributed to technological snags, “primarily due to unanticipated difficulty in competing interfaces,” according to a letter written by Intergraph president Steven L. Cost to Phoenix officials.

Crump said Phoenix attorneys are still working with Intergraph to iron out who is going to accept responsibility for which delays.

How much of the delays fall under the city’s responsibility versus Intergraph’s:

Jack Breitbeil, Intergraph vice president of operations, stressed the company’s positive partnership with the city of Phoenix, and said delays are expected with any technological upgrade of this magnitude.

“Intergraph is going to continue in partnership with Phoenix to make sure the system works the way it’s needed, and is ready for full production deployment,” he said.

See other industry news.

See PRI’s police records training solutions including on-line learning, seminars and more.

Original article