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Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Spending in Question..

Police Dashboard Computer Systems Not Performing?
Here’s another couple million tax dollars someone should re-evaluate:  Software that is supposed to work really great to integrate all of the data systems for police work and help patrol officers to literally predict the future of crime to prevent it. 
At the least, there’s a fabulous-looking set of screens that officers should be able to access everything from maps showing calls for service, ankle monitors, APB’s, latest communications from anyone at CMPD, warrants, and more, all at a touch.  The presentations of how it will work look great.  In practice, however, most patrol officers say the whole thing is not designed for a mobile environment, takes 20-30 minutes to load up, and so is useless. 
Since the whole new dashboard system is completely ineffective, they don’t use it.  Monroe and Medlock have virtually promised a magic crystal ball to the future, but officers say they aren’t able to load the software—so they normally use their lap tops for checking e-mails, filing reports, checking warrants, etc…
This is the agenda for the approval of money for Predictive Analytics Software by City Council:
City Council Agenda
November 23, 2009 41

38. Police Predictive Analytic Software and Services
Staff Resource: Harold Medlock, Police
Police has 13 different crime data sources that provide information on arrests, incidents, calls for service and other relevant police data.
To gather information for analysis, Police currently goes through a labor intensive and time consuming manual process to compile statistics and reports from each of the 13 data sources.
The reporting and statistical information is not available to police officers on a timely basis that allows them to respond as proactively as needed to trends in their assigned areas.
The new software will automate the analytical process by gathering the information from each data source and providing updated real time crime information to police officers through the laptop computers in their patrol vehicles. The officers can then analyze the trends and patterns of a particular crime occurring in a certain geographical area or a certain time of day using interactive information tools that provide graphical views of the data.
The software will allow police officers to predict future crime patterns based on prior history and other relevant data for a specific area.
The enhanced data will enable Police Response Area Commanders and Command Staff will be able to assign and adjust resources more proactively and efficiently, evaluate the achievement of crime reduction goals and target specific areas for improvement.
Police, in collaboration with Procurement Services, issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) on June 5, 2009 for Predictive Analytic Software, Dashboards, and Services.
Six proposals were received in response to the RFP and were reviewed by an evaluation team on criteria including background and experience, proposed solution, exceptions to contract language, and pricing.
Two of the proposals received additional evaluation and the vendors conducted on-site demos.
The Evaluation Team unanimously considered Information Builders, Inc. to be the service provider best meeting the established requirements. Small Business Opportunity No SBO goal was set for this contract because subcontracting opportunities are not anticipated (Part C; Section 2.4 of the SBO Policy) 
A. Approve a contract with Information Builders, Inc. for the purchase of Predictive Analytic Software and Services for an initial term of one-year, in an amount not to exceed $1,231,500,
B. Authorize the City Manager to approve up to five, one year renewal options for extended software maintenance and support with an estimated annual expenditure of $88,000, and
C. Authorize the City Manager to approve additional license purchases as required by Police as authorized by the contract and in accordance with its price structure.

You can page through this presentation and see that Monroe used the same company in Richmond before they were chosen as the company to spend an amount either approaching or exceeding $2 Million here in Charlotte (since the licensing fee is not stated).  It’s hard to say what kind of rigorous RFP (Request For Proposal), proposal review and evaluation, then development of final revisions, and choice between last two companies on a complicated software system set to tie together 13 disparate systems could have occurred in four months. 
Here’s a glossy full-page ad in “Police Chief Magazine” October, 2010 for the same “predictive analytics” company starring three police chiefs, including our own Chief Rodney Monroe.  Wonder if Information Builders had any agreement regarding promotional materials?
Is it possible there was not enough of a hard look at vendors, and that’s why officers report that it doesn’t work properly in their patrol car laptops? 
For all the effort Medlock and Monroe have put into the roadshow for Information Builders about how great it would be to have the information at their fingertips, it doesn’t seem to be true. 
The slide presentations of how the system should work for officers look great.  In practice, however, it seems those reports are mostly available to command staff at their desks, and used mostly to track “results” from mid-level staff and below.  They can prepare for their weekly meetings, and word is some of them get pretty rough. 
See in this presentation by Deputy Chief Harold Medlock what looks like a great, integrated system that would be helpful.  DC Medlock (in charge during this past Memorial Day weekend, and now promoted to be in charge of DNC 2012 Security) and Monroe literally promise the moon--phases of the moon--and access to all the current crime data an officer could want.  The system also promises to have all historical data—which makes it all the more curious why CMPD continues to refuse release of accurate crime statistics when we have paid a couple of million dollars on top of all other monies spent for this system.

Among the stated “Project Goals” are to:
“Provide customized role-based delivery of crime data and predictive analytics to Officers and Command Staff”
So it seems from taking in this whole report in that every piece of data citynewswatch, numerous citizens, neighborhood watch groups,,, and probably more have been calling for, are all readily available and easy to access.  They are just refusing to show it. 
They have all the data, and we want the data.  Why isn’t a simple link created to the public web site? They have virtually promised a magic crystal ball to the future, but officers say they aren’t able to load the software—that it doesn’t load in a mobile application for 20 or 30 minutes, so they normally use their lap tops for checking e-mails, filing reports, checking warrants, etc...  After you look at the other pages, skip to page 22 and see the funny part: It says they will have
·       Increased accountability across the board
·       Liberates analysts to drive down crime

·       Single version of the TRUTH… Everyone is on the same page ...

·       And p. 24, explore citizen-facing applications for better transparency

Well, we paid for this technology, and CMPD is using it to keep the data from us because it will show the truth of what the police department is doing.  Release the data.  Obviously, it is all available and completely accessible—just not to citizens who foot the bill and are victims of crime.

p. 5:  Command Level Reports – Fourteen report packages automated and electronically distributed to Captains & Commanders to support Monday morning briefings and weekly CompStat sessions

     “CALLS FOR SERVICE” data is certainly available:  shown on page 14

It’s unclear in this announcement with dateline of Brussel, January 27, 2010, and quotes from Chief Rodney Monroe and Harold Medlock whether those quotes were taken on a trip there, or simply sent in.  Travel records will have to be checked.  But this press release is certainly an advertisement for the company.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on the Case with Information Builders’ Law Enforcement Analytics
North Carolina’s Largest City Embraces Predictive Policing Model to Reduce Crime and Improve Public Safety
Brussel, January 27, 2010

"Information Builders' dashboard and predictive analytics software will allow staff at every level of the police department to deal with facts in real time. We'll be better equipped to optimally assign officers to response areas with the highest likelihood of criminal activity, resulting in reduced crime and lower operating costs," said Chief Rodney Monroe of CMPD.
City of Charlotte and CMPD performed an in-depth evaluation of software vendors in the marketplace via a formal procurement process.

"Ultimately, our patrol officers will have targeted information available at their fingertips for every call to service – reducing the element of surprise and making their jobs safer on a daily basis," said Deputy Chief Harold Medlock of CMPD.
As Monroe is quoted in Computer World:

The department has been collecting this information for more than a decade now, but this is the first time that data has been put into context and pushed out to the officers. New analytic dashboards eliminate manual reporting processes and consolidate report packages to make crime analysts more efficient, improving safety in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
For example, weekly statistics are automatically delivered to division commanders every Monday morning reflecting their area of responsibility.

Being able to identify subjects and catch them faster has helped improve police performance for CMPD.
“Our officers don’t have to sift through piles of data to figure out what to do. The system uses data to target the officers’ activities and provides them with duties they can take action on immediately.” – Chief Rodney Monroe of CMPD

Much of this falls back on the Response Area Commander (RAC) Sergeants, but are they being expected to produce full results with half the equipment?  Do the commanders have the computer systems in place for harsh reviews every week, without benefit or safety of the access to the patrol officers of the system they’re supposed to have? 
Here’s part of what Rodney Monroe had to say on the topic at a February 2009 City Council Meeting, just before Councilman Peacock asked about predictive analytic software (which Monroe had used in Richmond, don’t forget):
I think we can police a lot smarter than going out –you know, we don’t measure by arrests.
I don’t sit back and hold people accountable for going
out there and how many arrests you make. We hold people accountable based on how many crimes you can prevent from happening

being in the right place at the right time. Focusing on the right problems in the right neighborhoods allows us to reduce crime whereby we are not overburdening that criminal justice system with multiple arrests, so there are savings based on preventing particular crime.
Councilmember Peacock said my question is about technology and the increased use of it across the United States, particularly GPS technology. I know that technology the basic logic is that it would reduce human effort and be able to increase the efficiency of officers. Can you comment about where we are as far as looking ahead where technology is going to be able to help equip our officers, and is that cost something we need to seriously consider in your numbers.
Chief Monroe said it is, and we had a meeting today. We are looking into the predictive analytics of policing where we can forecast where crime may occur based on a host of data that we already have collected over a number of years to say that I should be here and here during these specific times would give us the ability to go out and be proactive and prevent crimes from occurring. That is the way of the future. One of the things we are looking to do is to find other funding sources for those technology issues but only technology that allows us to be strategic in how we can prevent crime forcing us into the areas we need to be, forcing us to think about the different crimes we need to be focused on; not technology for the simple sake of having the newest and latest technology, but only that technology that is going to drive us to make us accountable for reducing crime.

It seems strange Monroe didn’t mention his history with a software company, and the fabulous results he says he produced with it, at this point during this council meeting as Council members were asking about Predictive Analysis future—and he simply responded it was the wave of the future.  It was also in his past.
Monroe apparently isn’t satisfied with the setup he put in place, because according to the City of Charlotte, they have made a distinction between job title and actual rank, and are saying the RAC Sergeant positions created, documented, and funded for a couple of years now won’t be valid soon, and never really were.  Despite receiving praise from City Council for the new “super sergeants” he created back when Monroe would show up to speak publicly at City Council meetings, all that has changed now.
 The RAC’s recently took written tests to become Lieutenants.  They’ve been told this is a new position, with many fewer slots, and no written CMPD Directives yet for LT, either.  More difficult to believe is the grossly unbalanced move to have 80% of the promotion decisions based on “oral” evaluations, and only 20% based on the written exams, which a not-so-subtle way of saying Monroe and his already-chosen-ones will be picking the ones they want to advance, without any necessary basis in performance, seniority, qualifications, education, or anything else relevant to doing a good job.  With the controversial “Rule of Five” has only been employed on recent promotions, to anyone’s memory, it has been announced that it will be used on Lieutenant promotions. Maybe they should skip any other process announcements and just pin up a list of who Rodney wants to put in a brand new take-home Charger.  That should end it. 
City Manager Curt Walton has stated before that he will not review any personnel concerns. Cheryl Brown in Human Resources stands by the same position, unless something has changed in the last couple of months. 
Why spend $1,231,500, plus $88,000 annual maintenance, plus another unstated annual licensing amount on a system to demand results and “hold people accountable” for preventing crime, when there is no accountability for the Man in Charge or anyone who is supposed to be in position of oversight?   How long will they continue to allow all of these personnel and financial issues to go unchecked?

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