04/30/2009

LAPD finds administrative success using new software

By Kevin L. Jones
PoliceOne Product Editor

After years of dealing with perception of having “rogue” officers, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) thinks it’s solved the problem with the help of database software similar to what corporations use to analyze trends.

Two years ago, the LAPD implemented a new software program called Teams II that searches for and identifies officers who could potentially create problems for the force. Developed by the Canada-based Sierra Systems, the software uses Cognos business intelligence (BI) software used by large corporations to manage their people.

The LAPD installed the software as part of a consent decree with the Department of Justice (DOJ), which threatened to sue the LAPD after the Rampart Scandal back in 2001. After the two parties agreed to the decree, the LAPD brought in Sierra to create a database program that allowed commanding officers and the DOJ to audit the actions of a police force almost 10,000-strong.

“Our job was to take all the data, create a warehouse [for it] and track it back to the officers,” said Joe Siegel, director of justice practice at Sierra.

Teams II works by compiling every report and complaint made against an officer, including those made by citizens, into one file. In short, every time an officer’s name appears on something filed into the LAPD’s system, the program makes a note of it on his file.

“Everything is tracked into a single report on that officer. It’s all done automatically – nobody has to do anything,” said Siegel.

The program also identifies officers that could become problems for the force by comparing his actions to those of the officer’s “peer group,” which is amalgamation of LEOs with the same or similar duties and responsibilities. Though officers don’t always fit into one peer group, Sierra continually works with the department to ensure that the program’s recommendations are as accurate as possible.

When the department began implementing the program two years ago, many officers expressed concerns with the program, especially over its Big Brother-like qualities. Rumors spread around the department that any use of force was being recorded and that secret reports could be written about officers. So, as the program started up, the department worked with the officers’ unions to ensure the rights of the officers were protected and that the officers were educated on how the program worked.

“We’ve dispelled any concerns about secret reports,” said Senior Deputy Maggie Goodrich, who manages Teams II for the LAPD. “The employee is always aware of what’s happening.”

Officers can also challenge any complaints or marks against them in their files.

For commanding officers like Sandy Jo MacArthur, the software initially equated to being a source for more work. But as time went on, MacArthur said she started seeing the benefits of having such a tool.

“Instead of assuming a lot of information, we can have it at our fingertips,” said MacArthur, the deputy chief of the LAPD’s incident management and training bureau. “It’s not just rumors; now I also know their history. It adds depth to the person’s package.”

MacArthur said the program isn’t just used for keeping LEOs in line; it also helps those same officers when they apply for jobs higher up in the department by providing a more detailed resume. Also, the software makes it easier for officers to receive commendations – according to Siegel the department dispensed 110 commendations since the software’s implementation.

“If you pay attention to your people, they’ll do a good job,” said Siegel.

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