In-Car Police Computers Remain Inoperative

In the Ombudsman’s report to City Council presented on February 20, 2007, one of the biggest areas of concern was the fact the in-car police computers did not work. This means that police cars could not know where each other were at all times. It also inhibits the ability and ease of checking license plates.

As Davis Police Ombudsman Robert Aaronson wrote:

As I understand it, a substantial number of the in-car computers remain unreliable and cannot be depended upon to remain in contact with dispatch. This is a serious officer safety issue. It adversely impacts Department morale and undermines the quality of service the Department can provide to the community. Given the long period (many months) that this has remained unresolved, it is high time it was fixed once and for all.

And in fact these computers have never worked and to this day continue to not work. The primary problem with them seems to be hardware-software compatibility. The software is newer than the hardware and causes the hardware to crash.

This mirrors the problem of in-car cameras, which for months were not working and so the officers were not getting reliable recordings of an on-scene encounters. However at last month’s City Council Meeting Aaronson told council:

“It’s been my view all along that the in-car computers are more critical than the in-car cameras.”

The safety issues involving the officers and the convenience of having readily accessible information aside there are several very concerning factors about this inability to get this technology to work.

The first and most obvious one is that this is hardly re-inventing the wheel. We could likely go across the country and find almost every police department and almost every police vehicle with computers in the vehicle. And I think it is safe to say that in almost every police department with in-car computers, the computers are operational. They work. This is not rocket science. There is no logical technical reason that you cannot make computers in a police vehicle work.

That leads us to the second problem. This is not an unknown problem. Mr. Aaronson has mentioned it in public several times. And he mentions it frequently in conversation. That means not only does the police department know but the city manager’s office knows and city staff knows. Perhaps I am naïve about how all of this stuff works, but I would think this would not be a difficult problem to resolve.

In part this gets at Mr. Aaronson’s concern about leadership within the department:

The second [problem], based on many discussions with Department members, is the need for quality leadership and clear supervision that uniformly holds people accountable. Without intending to disrespect the hard work of current and former supervisors and administrators, it does appear that the turnover in staff, and particularly in chiefs, has undermined the organization’s supervisory chain of command, its vision and its morale.

And while in many ways this clearly is a police leadership problem and it exemplifies the concerns that Mr. Aaronson has about leadership. It is also broader than a police problem. It is a city problem. Mr. Aaronson came before City Council last month. Each of the five city council members are aware of this problem as is city staff again, from the City Manager on down.

So why is this problem not solved? How much money will this problem cost the city in an attempt to resolve? Who is accountable for the failure of these computers to work? Will the City Manager, the Interim Police Chief, and/ or the City Council hold people responsible for this failure? None of these answers are clear, although it appears from the outside that no one will be held responsible for this.

What is clear is that newly hired Police Captain Landy Black both cannot get here fast enough and has his work cut out for him. The department needs a strong leader than can resolve these problems, but again the responsibility here does not end with the Interim Police Chief and that might be a bigger problem in the long run.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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Law Enforcement

40 comments

  1. This is a complete joke! If council cannot hold their city manager accountable, or the interim chief of police accountable, without spending more tax payer dollars on something that should have worked in the first place maybe it’s time to replace the city manager and the interim chief of police Pierce who should have worked on this after Hyde left.

  2. This is a complete joke! If council cannot hold their city manager accountable, or the interim chief of police accountable, without spending more tax payer dollars on something that should have worked in the first place maybe it’s time to replace the city manager and the interim chief of police Pierce who should have worked on this after Hyde left.

  3. This is a complete joke! If council cannot hold their city manager accountable, or the interim chief of police accountable, without spending more tax payer dollars on something that should have worked in the first place maybe it’s time to replace the city manager and the interim chief of police Pierce who should have worked on this after Hyde left.

  4. This is a complete joke! If council cannot hold their city manager accountable, or the interim chief of police accountable, without spending more tax payer dollars on something that should have worked in the first place maybe it’s time to replace the city manager and the interim chief of police Pierce who should have worked on this after Hyde left.

  5. It looks to me like about 1 1/2 months have passed since Aaronson’s public report discussed the issue of the inoperative police car computers…”keeping the heat on” is a valuable public service of Peoples Vanguard of Davis. We all fully expect that the city council will bring City Manager Emlen back in the very near future for a detailed public report on the progress/resolution of this issue.

  6. It looks to me like about 1 1/2 months have passed since Aaronson’s public report discussed the issue of the inoperative police car computers…”keeping the heat on” is a valuable public service of Peoples Vanguard of Davis. We all fully expect that the city council will bring City Manager Emlen back in the very near future for a detailed public report on the progress/resolution of this issue.

  7. It looks to me like about 1 1/2 months have passed since Aaronson’s public report discussed the issue of the inoperative police car computers…”keeping the heat on” is a valuable public service of Peoples Vanguard of Davis. We all fully expect that the city council will bring City Manager Emlen back in the very near future for a detailed public report on the progress/resolution of this issue.

  8. It looks to me like about 1 1/2 months have passed since Aaronson’s public report discussed the issue of the inoperative police car computers…”keeping the heat on” is a valuable public service of Peoples Vanguard of Davis. We all fully expect that the city council will bring City Manager Emlen back in the very near future for a detailed public report on the progress/resolution of this issue.

  9. The problem of computers not working in police cars existed long before Aaronson became the ombudsman last year, yet the problem continues.

    Neither former chief Jim Hyde, assistant chief Steve Pierce or their manaagement teams have corrected this problem. It has simply gone on for years.

    This is symbolic of what is wrong with our city administrators. They are slow to react or do not react at all. This is sheer incompetence. No one is held accountable for their responsiblities to make sure their systems are working. No one is held accountable for protecting the taxpayer’s dollars. No one is held accountable by either the city manager or the city council.

    These administrators/managers are very well compensated to do their jobs, yet they do a lousy job at them.

  10. The problem of computers not working in police cars existed long before Aaronson became the ombudsman last year, yet the problem continues.

    Neither former chief Jim Hyde, assistant chief Steve Pierce or their manaagement teams have corrected this problem. It has simply gone on for years.

    This is symbolic of what is wrong with our city administrators. They are slow to react or do not react at all. This is sheer incompetence. No one is held accountable for their responsiblities to make sure their systems are working. No one is held accountable for protecting the taxpayer’s dollars. No one is held accountable by either the city manager or the city council.

    These administrators/managers are very well compensated to do their jobs, yet they do a lousy job at them.

  11. The problem of computers not working in police cars existed long before Aaronson became the ombudsman last year, yet the problem continues.

    Neither former chief Jim Hyde, assistant chief Steve Pierce or their manaagement teams have corrected this problem. It has simply gone on for years.

    This is symbolic of what is wrong with our city administrators. They are slow to react or do not react at all. This is sheer incompetence. No one is held accountable for their responsiblities to make sure their systems are working. No one is held accountable for protecting the taxpayer’s dollars. No one is held accountable by either the city manager or the city council.

    These administrators/managers are very well compensated to do their jobs, yet they do a lousy job at them.

  12. The problem of computers not working in police cars existed long before Aaronson became the ombudsman last year, yet the problem continues.

    Neither former chief Jim Hyde, assistant chief Steve Pierce or their manaagement teams have corrected this problem. It has simply gone on for years.

    This is symbolic of what is wrong with our city administrators. They are slow to react or do not react at all. This is sheer incompetence. No one is held accountable for their responsiblities to make sure their systems are working. No one is held accountable for protecting the taxpayer’s dollars. No one is held accountable by either the city manager or the city council.

    These administrators/managers are very well compensated to do their jobs, yet they do a lousy job at them.

  13. The vendor should have been held responsible in their contract, assuming there is something wrong with the hardware/software.

    If that was not written into the contract, as it normally is and should be, then there is something wrong with the way Davis buys goods and services.

    Of course the equipment may not work because of other reasons – perhaps the police officers don’t want the system to work because it makes it easier to hold officers accountable for their activities. SAH

  14. The vendor should have been held responsible in their contract, assuming there is something wrong with the hardware/software.

    If that was not written into the contract, as it normally is and should be, then there is something wrong with the way Davis buys goods and services.

    Of course the equipment may not work because of other reasons – perhaps the police officers don’t want the system to work because it makes it easier to hold officers accountable for their activities. SAH

  15. The vendor should have been held responsible in their contract, assuming there is something wrong with the hardware/software.

    If that was not written into the contract, as it normally is and should be, then there is something wrong with the way Davis buys goods and services.

    Of course the equipment may not work because of other reasons – perhaps the police officers don’t want the system to work because it makes it easier to hold officers accountable for their activities. SAH

  16. The vendor should have been held responsible in their contract, assuming there is something wrong with the hardware/software.

    If that was not written into the contract, as it normally is and should be, then there is something wrong with the way Davis buys goods and services.

    Of course the equipment may not work because of other reasons – perhaps the police officers don’t want the system to work because it makes it easier to hold officers accountable for their activities. SAH

  17. The hardware was purchased before the software. I heard that there needs to be a hardware fix.

    This is an officer safety issue as well as a public safety issue. Information relayed verbally can only go so far. An example is the crime spree that went on yesterday where two men carjacked, shot and robbed their way across Yolo County. The quickly changing events would be hard to keep up with if information was only available verbally. What if multiple incidents were happening and an officer had to put his attention elsewhere for a while. How would he be able to insert himself back into the search without some sort of way to relay the changing events. I don’t know how they do it, to tell you the truth.

    Plus it is hard to ask the department for statistics on traffic stops, etc. if we don’t give them an easy way to keep track of the information.

    We can do better for our officers out in the field.

  18. The hardware was purchased before the software. I heard that there needs to be a hardware fix.

    This is an officer safety issue as well as a public safety issue. Information relayed verbally can only go so far. An example is the crime spree that went on yesterday where two men carjacked, shot and robbed their way across Yolo County. The quickly changing events would be hard to keep up with if information was only available verbally. What if multiple incidents were happening and an officer had to put his attention elsewhere for a while. How would he be able to insert himself back into the search without some sort of way to relay the changing events. I don’t know how they do it, to tell you the truth.

    Plus it is hard to ask the department for statistics on traffic stops, etc. if we don’t give them an easy way to keep track of the information.

    We can do better for our officers out in the field.

  19. The hardware was purchased before the software. I heard that there needs to be a hardware fix.

    This is an officer safety issue as well as a public safety issue. Information relayed verbally can only go so far. An example is the crime spree that went on yesterday where two men carjacked, shot and robbed their way across Yolo County. The quickly changing events would be hard to keep up with if information was only available verbally. What if multiple incidents were happening and an officer had to put his attention elsewhere for a while. How would he be able to insert himself back into the search without some sort of way to relay the changing events. I don’t know how they do it, to tell you the truth.

    Plus it is hard to ask the department for statistics on traffic stops, etc. if we don’t give them an easy way to keep track of the information.

    We can do better for our officers out in the field.

  20. The hardware was purchased before the software. I heard that there needs to be a hardware fix.

    This is an officer safety issue as well as a public safety issue. Information relayed verbally can only go so far. An example is the crime spree that went on yesterday where two men carjacked, shot and robbed their way across Yolo County. The quickly changing events would be hard to keep up with if information was only available verbally. What if multiple incidents were happening and an officer had to put his attention elsewhere for a while. How would he be able to insert himself back into the search without some sort of way to relay the changing events. I don’t know how they do it, to tell you the truth.

    Plus it is hard to ask the department for statistics on traffic stops, etc. if we don’t give them an easy way to keep track of the information.

    We can do better for our officers out in the field.

  21. “An example is the crime spree that went on yesterday where two men carjacked, shot and robbed their way across Yolo County.”

    Maybe you know something more than I do about this story. But in reading yesterday’s account in The Enterprise, it wasn’t clear to me that these crimes were committed by one pair. Rather, based on the varying descriptions of the people and the vehicles, I got the sense that there were two different, unrelated sets of criminals acting at roughly the same time.

  22. “An example is the crime spree that went on yesterday where two men carjacked, shot and robbed their way across Yolo County.”

    Maybe you know something more than I do about this story. But in reading yesterday’s account in The Enterprise, it wasn’t clear to me that these crimes were committed by one pair. Rather, based on the varying descriptions of the people and the vehicles, I got the sense that there were two different, unrelated sets of criminals acting at roughly the same time.

  23. “An example is the crime spree that went on yesterday where two men carjacked, shot and robbed their way across Yolo County.”

    Maybe you know something more than I do about this story. But in reading yesterday’s account in The Enterprise, it wasn’t clear to me that these crimes were committed by one pair. Rather, based on the varying descriptions of the people and the vehicles, I got the sense that there were two different, unrelated sets of criminals acting at roughly the same time.

  24. “An example is the crime spree that went on yesterday where two men carjacked, shot and robbed their way across Yolo County.”

    Maybe you know something more than I do about this story. But in reading yesterday’s account in The Enterprise, it wasn’t clear to me that these crimes were committed by one pair. Rather, based on the varying descriptions of the people and the vehicles, I got the sense that there were two different, unrelated sets of criminals acting at roughly the same time.

  25. “Geek Squad” They Are Not
    Surprisingly, no one has touched upon the “support issues” surrounding this problem. Davis PD computer support is provided by the City of Davis Information Services Division (non-PD staff) – whose director is a control freak. Instead of contracting out support for the in-car cameras & computers with the vendors who installed them (like most organizations do), he insists on using only IS staff for support, who have wasted countless hours and taxpayers’ dollars trying to fix ongoing problems that could have been averted had a maintainance contract been in place. In other words, Davis PD is not responsible for this mess – but they should have been more vocal about their technical support problems…

  26. “Geek Squad” They Are Not
    Surprisingly, no one has touched upon the “support issues” surrounding this problem. Davis PD computer support is provided by the City of Davis Information Services Division (non-PD staff) – whose director is a control freak. Instead of contracting out support for the in-car cameras & computers with the vendors who installed them (like most organizations do), he insists on using only IS staff for support, who have wasted countless hours and taxpayers’ dollars trying to fix ongoing problems that could have been averted had a maintainance contract been in place. In other words, Davis PD is not responsible for this mess – but they should have been more vocal about their technical support problems…

  27. “Geek Squad” They Are Not
    Surprisingly, no one has touched upon the “support issues” surrounding this problem. Davis PD computer support is provided by the City of Davis Information Services Division (non-PD staff) – whose director is a control freak. Instead of contracting out support for the in-car cameras & computers with the vendors who installed them (like most organizations do), he insists on using only IS staff for support, who have wasted countless hours and taxpayers’ dollars trying to fix ongoing problems that could have been averted had a maintainance contract been in place. In other words, Davis PD is not responsible for this mess – but they should have been more vocal about their technical support problems…

  28. “Geek Squad” They Are Not
    Surprisingly, no one has touched upon the “support issues” surrounding this problem. Davis PD computer support is provided by the City of Davis Information Services Division (non-PD staff) – whose director is a control freak. Instead of contracting out support for the in-car cameras & computers with the vendors who installed them (like most organizations do), he insists on using only IS staff for support, who have wasted countless hours and taxpayers’ dollars trying to fix ongoing problems that could have been averted had a maintainance contract been in place. In other words, Davis PD is not responsible for this mess – but they should have been more vocal about their technical support problems…

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