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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 22, 2011 8:42 PM. The previous post in this blog was City Council to normal mom: Beat it. The next post in this blog is Ding dong, a streetcar's dead. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cop union says Portland's new 911 computer system stinks

Nurse Amanda said the new system was "close to perfect," but this story certainly begs to differ with that assessment. In the words of the police union president, Daryl Turner --

The problems with VCAD are fundamental defects in the system over which dispatchers, police officers, firefighters and paramedics have no control.... To top it off, the new VCAD system is actually slower than the old CAD system, and the newly added GPS feature is inaccurate (when it's working in the first place).... Many insiders question the no-bid contract arrangement with an inexperienced and unqualified company....
But perhaps the nut of the piece comes from ace reporter Maxine Bernstein, who in her lead paragraph calls it "a new 9-1-1 emergency dispatch system that has been plagued with problems since it went live this spring."

Wow. "Plagued." Not "perfect" -- "plagued." Another computer success story from the City Council. You read about it on this blog first, on May 3.

Comments (15)

If only public safety were as important as re-election posturing.

I recently called 911 for PPD. If I hadn't been out on the street waving at the officer as he passed by he would have been looking for the call location for who knows how long. He apologized, the computer system had dropped the address.

After taking care of the incident we got to talking about the computer problems. The size of text is definitely a problem, and as the officer stated, going over the bumpy streets of Portland with the computer jiggling in it's suspending arm, the screen can't be read. He also said the old system was much better because it gave you the basic information needed to quickly get to an incident instead of massive amount of unreadable information that confused getting to the essence of what an officer needed in emergency situations. He said improvements had been promised for months, but still no results.

He was polite, not a chip on his shoulders about the system, but just stating the facts. He said a large percentage of the force all felt the same way about the system and lamented how unresponsive Fritz's office has been, plus he mentioned the excessive costs. But what was most appalling was his remarks of how "friendships", "connections" in Fritz's office with the computer program provider had played a major role in the fiasco, and that it was continuing.

I would like to know about these favoritism charges. We need some whistleblowers.

KISS is not something that politicians understand. And for their benefit the letters stand for Keep It Simple Stupid. It is a great management guide although not taught in MBA schools

Hey, it's the City That Works! It Works! No problems. Love it or leave it...

No bid is BS. There are precious few instances where it is truly justified.

Hope they get it fixed soon before somebody is seriously hurt or dies because of the glitches.

The K.I.S.S. of death: No Bid = No Re-election.

The COP has no idea how to run a project involving computer software. Systems that provide value start with requirements from those who will actually be using the software/hardware. Those who sell packages will promise whatever they need to and vaporware is common. Anyone with any common sense will either run a proof of concept or visit others already using the system and see the system in use there. But why spend money on due diligence when there are tweeters to hire and officials to send to Europe and Brazil?

It takes a big person to admit there are problems and to step up and address them. Unfortunately, it appears Amanda is not one of those people. It's sad that she got so tainted so quickly by the rest of kiddie council.

Sam "Mayor Creepy" Adams has an entirely different understanding of the acronym KISS, I'd imagine.

Kids in silk shorts?

The two employees who could keep the old system going??? Were run out on the rails before the new system could be implemented because they were vocal about the pitfalls and dangers of the new system. One of the two (Jim Churchill) has written here and was very knowledgable and willing to share that knowledge and train a replacement. The other was also a wiz at the system and just as willing to share and train a replacement. Turley wasn't having it and now both are gone and she got her way. In my opinion heads should roll and not the ones who are quitting and retiring at an alarming rate (6 people turned In notices in a matter of weeks after the vcad went live).

One of the co-owners of IE4solutions is Joe Prats. He used to be my neighbor. I know he qualifies as a "minority owned" business and he used to flip houses in SW Portland while software consulting as his day job.

There is another I.E. Solutions in Baton Rouge, LA which is unrelated.

KennyG - Not to rain on your parade but the reality is that most systems will not keep running indefinitely. The software is usually based on underlying infrastructure. And at some point that becomes obsolete. You cannot get parts, the operating system and firmware is no longer supported and/or will not run on newer hardware, blah, blah.

The city has often waited to act until systems are beyond obsolescence. So keeping old systems going sounds good in theory; but it's not pragmatic.

Managing a software portfolio needs to be done by professionals (not elected officials and bureaucratic hacks). The phrase software portfolio would likely be unknown to the decision makers at COP. And part of portfolio management is a technology plan that encompasses the present and future of key systems.

Not sure where PPB got the no-bid info, but the acquisition of this new VCAD went through the normal City procurement process with multiple vendors bidding and being narrowed down to the top three, Versaterm, Intergraph, and TriTech. These vendors were required to have demo systems at BOEC for a month and all users of the system were invited to see the demonstrations.

JimC - Demonstration systems are pretty generally rigged and are far less effective than proof of concepts.

The vendors carefully set-up carefully rigged scenario (that might not even be using the real code behind their systems) that shows what they want you to see. Demos have nothing to with real life system usage.

And how many PPB front line employees/officers actually had a chance to even see the "demos"? Or did the brass just come in and kiss up?

And I'd love to know where your IP resolves to.

LucsAdvo: The demo systems were all accurate representations of the latest software and not rigged at all. The VCAD system was actually installed winter 2010 and was available for users to test not only CAD but MDT use. Street level personnel were given the opportunity to try the demos.

I am one of the former employees that supported the last CAD system and I am currently using my cousin's wireless network in Auburn, WA.

You seem overly suspicious, but I guess you should be since the City of Portland continues to demonstrate stupidity and political ignorance when it comes to large computer purchases.

The no-bid portion, as I see it, refers to the contract with i.e. solutions, not for the actual software. Not only was there a huge conflict of interest with i.e. solutions assessing the old CAD, but they simply didn't have the know-how, expertise or experience to lead this project, and now we're seeing the results.

There is a big difference between a "representation" of a system and a functional system that a user can use hands-on. There is big difference between a unit sitting on a table and a unit operating in a vehicle. There is a big difference between one demo unit and a fully loaded (meaning many units operating) system (and both police and fire are complaining about system performance).

And obviously this system was not particularly well tested before it was rolled out as last night's news said PPB is claiming that officers have reported over 1000 defects and few have been fixed to this point.

And yes the COP has a very poor history of implementing large software projects, starting at the point of system selection.


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