Audit: Police wasted millions on software, crime-fighting tech they never used

But a city official in Oakland, California, calls some of the audit's conclusions misleading

Police in Oakland, California, have spent about US$1.8 million in recent years on software and other crime-fighting technologies that they either never used or drastically underutilized, according to a report released Wednesday by city auditor Courtney Ruby.

Between fiscal years 2006-07 and 2010-11, Oakland police spent nearly $500,000 on a system called ShotSpotter, which tracks the location of gunfire, "but did not use the system, as intended, during this five-year period," according to the audit.

Only one computer was used to report ShotSpotter alerts, and no dispatcher had been posted at the computer to read alerts, it adds.

ShotSpotter also suffered from "non-use by officers for investigation," as well as the department's decision to stop system maintenance "due to budget constraints," it adds.

The OPD spent $1.2 million on an in-car video management system in fiscal 2007-08, but it was never used because it "did not work as expected" and the vendor went out of business, according to the report.

In addition, an E-Citation system that cost more than $81,000 was never used, the report adds. The product's vendor also went out of business before the department could implement it, according to the audit.

Another $65,000 was spent on a database system called Evalis that "identifies at-risk behavior activities of officers." Evalis also was never used, partly due to the need for additional software and services, but once again because the original vendor also went out of business, according to the report.

Finally, about $37,000 has been spent on a software package from SAP that has yet to be implemented, and the department is still using the legacy system, "which is currently out of warranty," the report states.

An Oakland police spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement attached to the audit, city administrator Deanna Santana said its recommendations, which call for better training and IT planning practices, are "generally sound."

However, the audit contains a number of "significant errors and omissions," Santana added.

For one, the audit doesn't highlight the fact that Oakland police reused $660,000 worth of equipment originally bought for the in-car video system on another project, according to Santana.

The ShotSpotter system has also been more valuable to policing efforts than the audit implied, she added.

It seems clear that Oakland police officials "bought more technology than they could absorb," said Michael Krigsman, CEO of IT advisory firm Asuret. "Many organizations big and small do not realize the challenges associated with purchasing enterprise systems."

These difficulties span from the initial procurement, implementation and "change management," the concept of adapting work habits to the new systems, Krigsman added.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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