In the summer of 2014, the Boston Police Department celebrated the launch of a new 911 dispatch system and, soon to follow, an updated record management system. The $15.5 million upgrade, the first in 20 years, was designed to shorten response times and improve officer safety.
But despite pushback from then Police Commissioner Edward Davis, the Menino administration had chosen Intergraph, an Alabama-based software provider, to create the system. “I didn’t want it,” Davis said. The reason: “Their track record with other police departments.”
Now two years later, several officers throughout the department say the record management system, which is used by the department to electronically file various incident reports, is a “nightmare.”
Officers have complained that incident reports take longer to complete — eating up time officers would otherwise spend on the streets. Searching the system for related reports is cumbersome,they say, and error messages appear without explanation, leaving the report in a state of limbo.
“This system has made our jobs harder,” said one police official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak to the media. “It is a mess.” The officer said viewing the location of patrol cars was simpler under the older system, but now it is difficult to determine which patrols are out and what they are doing.
Another police official said: “It’s not user-friendly. There’s so many obstacles. A motor vehicle report should take 10 minutes, but now it takes an hour or an hour and a half.”
A third police official said a request for a report on three suspects returned hundreds of pages to prosecutors handling a case. The report should have been about 10 pages, the police official said.
Law enforcement agencies across the country have reported issues with Intergraph.
Three years ago, the Nassau County, N.Y., Police Department said Intergraph cost the city millions in overtime as police officers spent more time at their desks completing reports, information had to be reentered into the system multiple times, and unexplained error messages continued to appear, according to news reports.
That same year, the Dallas Police Department said that 20 inmates were released in part because of problems with Intergraph software that led to ballooning workloads, and hundreds of reports with errors that had to be returned to officers to be fixed.
In 2013, Intergraph’s 911 system in New York City came under fire after it crashed four times in the first several days. Up to one-third of calls were missed. At least one of the crashes was due to human error. And in San Jose, a civil grand jury said the Intergraph dispatch system “immediately had operational challenges.”
Officials at Intergraph did not return requests for comment. But in the past Intergraph has called reported problems isolated.
Two police officials have said Police Commissioner William B. Evans has expressed a desire to scrap the system, but Boston police spokesman Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy insists there are currently “no plans to change any reporting systems inside the BPD.”
“The department continues to look for ways to become more efficient and is currently reviewing the reporting system that is in place,” he said in a statement. “Although the [record management system] is fully operational for its core functions, we are exploring opportunities to enhance record management by introducing new features, improving usability, and building a more modern interface, either by upgrading the current system or by exploring alternatives.”
McCarthy said the commissioner has been soliciting feedback about the system from rank-and-file officers during roll call visits, at which he has heard complaints about the time it takes to file reports.
“Time to complete reports can differ depending on the circumstances of the incidents,” McCarthy said. “Twenty minutes to complete a report was the norm. Now similar reports can take longer.”
McCarthy said also that conducting searches under the old system was easier, with fewer steps to get results. “It was simply easier to use,” he said.
Boston police, fire, and Emergency Medical Services use the 911 system, also known as the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD). The system uses geospatial technology to create a real-time map of the city that includes the location of every police car, ambulance, fire engine, and every 911 call and ShotSpotter, which alerts police to gunfire.
The Intergraph InPursuit Record Management System (RMS) is only used by the police.
The city’s Technology Department managed the project along with public safety personnel and awarded the contract to Intergraph in 2011, McCarthy said. Both systems were scheduled to go live in 2013, but the project fell behind until the Police Department took over and oversaw its installation in 2014.
“At this time it was determined that the Intergraph RMS was not ready to be implemented without significant modification and oversight of deliverables,” he said. “This required close management of the Intergraph team by BPD to drive deadlines and control costs.”
Now both systems are running successfully, McCarthy said, and there are plans to update the 911 system to the latest version this year.