Seattle Times: SPD Seeking Bids for Computer System Key to Reforms

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, who inherited problems in launching bid specifications for the project when she took the job in June, had pledged to meet a March 1 court-imposed deadline for seeking a vendor....

Stevie Miletich, Seattle Times (Feb. 19, 2015)

In a major step toward meeting federally mandated reforms, the Seattle Police Department on Thursday announced it has opened bidding on the development of a sophisticated computer system to track use of force, biased policing and crime fighting.

Building the long-delayed “Data Analytics Platform” has been considered a linchpin of the 2½-year-old reform effort.

Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, who inherited problems in launching bid specifications when she took the job in June, had pledged to meet a March 1 court-imposed deadline for seeking a vendor.

The city began inviting bids from vendors Wednesday night, with proposals due by April 13.

A contract is expected to be awarded during the summer, according to the department, which has been relying on a stopgap computer system to track use-of-force incidents.

The federal monitor handling reforms, Merrick Bobb, has made clear that the construction of a new business-intelligence computer system, which is expected to cost more than $10 million, is crucial to the city’s ability to comply with a July 2012 consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to address excessive force and biased policing.

With the new platform, the Police Department will, for the first time, aim to collect disparate information, then analyze it in a central clearinghouse.

One benefit will be an early-warning system to flag potential problem officers with pooled information now separately housed in older systems, Mike Wagers, the department’s chief operating officer, said Thursday. 

The platform will consolidate and manage data provided by a variety of systems related to police calls and incidents, citizen interactions, administrative processes, training and workforce management that will provide “enhanced analytical capabilities and reporting” connected to the consent decree, the department said in a statement.

It will eventually expand to include crime analysis.

The announcement comes six months after the federal judge overseeing the consent decree chastised Seattle police for seeking a delay in developing the platform before granting a March 1 extension, saying there was no other choice in order to get the job done right.

In rebuking the department during an Aug. 19 court hearing, U.S. District Judge James Robart invoked the violent unrest unfolding in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer.

“We have an unfortunate situation in Missouri” that has sparked national concern about police actions and damaged law-enforcement officers throughout the country, Robart said.

He said the same deficiencies that led to the consent decree in Seattle — surrounding use of force, training, stops and detentions, bias-free policing and supervision of officers — were at issue in Ferguson.

In Seattle, people will be deprived of constitutional policing until the computer system is “up and running,” Robart said, adding, “We don’t need armored personnel carriers. We need the public to support us.”

O’Toole, who appeared at the hearing, assured Robart she was fully committed to completing the computer work. 

Citing her past experience as the monitor of federally mandated police reforms in East Haven, Conn., she told Robart she had her “ducks in order,” including the appointment of Wagers, a civilian brought in to focus in part on upgrading technology.

Bobb, the federal monitor, attributed Seattle’s delay in developing a permanent fix to intransigence in the Police Department during the first year of the consent decree, marked by efforts to defeat the agreement.

Since the August court hearing, O’Toole has appointed Virginia Gleason, her chief strategic adviser, to the lead the Seattle police team. Gleason worked with the city, the Justice Department and Bobb’s monitoring team to develop the request for proposals.

They drew upon previous work conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2013, which provided a high-level assessment of the department’s technology needs. 

Wagers said the department also enlisted another contractor to conduct a deeper examination of its data sources and data integrity. That kept the request for bids from going out in December or January but helped gather better information to include in the request for vendor proposals, he said.

The department hopes to have phase one of the platform operating in late 2016 or by 2017, focused on requirements in the consent decree, Wagers said.

Another phase will follow with an emphasis on crime analysis, he said.

In its statement Thursday, the department said the new platform will allow it to consolidate crime and performance data, extending its data-driven approach to crime reduction and management.

During development of the new platform, the department, the Justice Department and the monitoring team will move forward with audits and data analysis to assess the department’s progress in complying with the consent decree, the statement said.

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/spd-seeking-bids-for-computer-system-key-to-reforms/