County’s Multi-Million Dollar Dispatch system to remain unplugged

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MD &#8211 The county’s multimillion dollar computer-aided dispatch system will remain unplugged until further notice, the county’s chief administrative officer said this week.

County officials turned off the Tiburon E-911 Computer-Aided Dispatch system in late December after only 21 days in service. The system was shut down amid complaints from police officers that it compromised their safety while on patrol.
Administrators said that the system could be back online by mid-March, after first failing to meet a January relaunch date.

John Hammond, who took over as the county chief administrative officer last month, said that bringing the Tiburon E-911 Computer-Aided Dispatch system back online remains a priority, but would not offer a projection of when the task would be achieved.

“I don’t want to falsely build anybody’s expectations — let’s get it right,” Hammond said. “It’s a priority of the administration to get this up and running properly. I’m optimistic that can be done.”

The county bought the dispatch system along with a record management system in 2008 for $6.6 million. The two programs cost roughly $300,000 a year to maintain.

Although the county reverted back to its previous dispatch system in December following complaints, the record management system has stayed online.

Hammond said he had been speaking with patrol offices and dispatch administrators in recent weeks to conduct his own assessment of the system. One of the issues identified in those conversations has been the need for additional training for those using it.

When prompted Hammond did not indicate how much training would be needed or what it might cost.

“It’s not a question of lots of hours, it’s just a matter of being able to train everybody and fit the training into the current operating schedule,” Hammond said. “Trying to schedule that for 600 police officers — that takes time.”

O’Brien Atkinson, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70, which represents the bulk of the county’s police officers said that while there was a lack of training, there are also a number of technical flaws that compromised safety.

When the system first came online, police officers complained that the system didn’t provide specific addresses of businesses for them to be located by dispatchers. Likewise dispatchers complained the system’s graphic interface was too complicated to navigate.

“There was a lack of training that came with the system, but at the end of the day Tiburon sold the county a faulty system,” Atkinson said. “There’s not enough training in the world that’s going to correct the issues the system has in and of itself.”

Hammond conceded that there were changes needed to the underlying system to make it more “user-friendly.”

Atkinson said that he was encouraged after speaking with county officials about software and other internal issues.

“We kind of agreed rather than fix the blame to fix the problem,” Atkinson said. “I was delighted at least, sitting down and having a frank discussion about these things.

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