New Police Computer System Impeding Arrests

In Queensland, Australia, policemen are arresting fewer people because their new data-entry system is too annoying:

He said police were growing reluctant to make arrests following the latest phased roll-out of QPRIME, or Queensland Police Records Information Management Exchange.

“They are reluctant to make arrests and they’re showing a lot more discretion in the arrests they make because QPRIME is so convoluted to navigate,” Mr Leavers said. He said minor street offences, some traffic offences and minor property matters were going unchallenged, but not serious offences.

However, Mr Leavers said there had been occasions where offenders were released rather than kept in custody because of the length of time it now took to prepare court summaries.

“There was an occasion where two people were arrested on multiple charges. It took six detectives more than six hours to enter the details into QPRIME,” he said. “It would have taken even longer to do the summary to go to court the next morning, so basically the suspects were released on bail, rather than kept in custody.”

He said jobs could now take up to seven hours to process because of the amount of data entry involved.

This is a good example of how non-security incentives affect security decisions.

Posted on January 22, 2009 at 1:51 PM27 Comments


Alex January 22, 2009 2:59 PM

Sounds like a bungled deployment. The linked article mentions that Canadian police forces who use the same system have civilian employees do the data entry. Seems like Queensland thought they could get away with heaping the new system on the cops and let them figure it out. Of course, typing speed isn’t a criteria in cops selection and they get paid a lot more then 10-15$/hr. unlike data entry clerks.

John January 22, 2009 3:00 PM

Huh. Adding a real utility cost (to the police officer) to arrests is a good thing. Let’s add hours of virtual paperwork for every Taser discharge, too.

A Non Moose January 22, 2009 3:25 PM

In our manufacturing plant we have a system for dealing with time consuming processes. We run the process through our lean department to cut out unneeded steps. Of course the lean team is made up of many different stakeholders, and a better process is usually the result.

This implementation sounds like they skipped that step. Where was the arresting officer’s input on this new program? Obviously it was not tested in the real world first.

Davi Ottenheimer January 22, 2009 3:47 PM

Not clear whether this is a learning curve, or the system is unusable. Also not clear how many new and more serious crimes have been solved by creating a central database (the real purpose of the new software) versus minor offenders let go…

Hawkins Dale January 22, 2009 3:55 PM

Does anybody remember Hill Street Blues? Whenever Det. Belcher arrested anybody, he would sit them down in a chair and start filling out the form, on a manual typewriter.

“Name!” he’d bark.

The detainee would provide a name, and Mick would enter it into the form at a data rate of slightly less than one character per second (stabbing each key with an index finger).

Errors would be cleared by violently ripping the page out of the typewriter and starting again.

But this sounds more efficient than the QPRIME implementation described.

me, laughing January 22, 2009 4:27 PM

So now the police are prisoners of their technology.

But it’s great to see that the legal system with it’s executing annexes is becoming so heavy that it fades out under it’s own weight of overdoing and stupidity.

Spreading Universal Love is the most rational way to go, not loading systems on systems on systems on more systems.

Dan Hill January 22, 2009 4:39 PM

Bruce, you’ve been socially engineered. Read the article. The complaint is coming from the Police Union and right at the end he drops the fact that in Canada they use civilians to do the data entry. Do you think maybe he’s got an agenda to push?

Kashmarek January 22, 2009 5:11 PM

Sounds like a product put in place by political connections rather than by police needs. Didn’t they test it? Or, or the police offices are submarining this so they don’t have to do the work or use it?

bkh January 22, 2009 5:56 PM

I call shennanigans on this one. 36 man-hours to arrest two people who weren’t all that dangerous so they were just let go? I’m smelling a bunch of cops that are throwing monkey wrenches into the new system because they don’t like it.

Motivations could range from the human nature of fearing change, to office politics, to even possibly that the new system increases officer accountability when they bend the law a bit.

Anonymous January 23, 2009 8:09 AM

I’m trying to imagine what kind of data about two arrests would take 36 man-hours to enter… I mean, time, place, names of those involved, a paragraph or two saying why the officers were there, and a few paragraphs about what happened..
What else is there?

Peter January 23, 2009 10:27 AM

What else is there?

The Smoking Gun (which is run by Court TV) frequently has arrest reports of interesting personalities, or other silly documents. If you waste several hours there (and I assure you that you will, because looking at that stuff is like eating potato chips – no one can do just one), you’ll see all sorts of variations in arrest reports and other documentation.

The English system is likewise bad, as the police spend more time documenting what they did, who they talked to, were they informed of rights, what races were involved, etc, that they spend more time filling out paperwork than doing actual policework.

MikeA January 23, 2009 10:56 AM

This “new” rates a yawn from anybody who has ever worked for a company that “bought” ISO-9000 compliance. The vendors of the one-stop solution to process improvement get paid. Their buddies at the audit firm get paid. The company gets its certification, and all real work is done “under the table”, so the pretty (if you are using exactly the same OS and web browser as the manager who signed the check) reports are total fantasy, customers are ditching you, and “Excess inventory” is flying out the side door almost faster than it came in.

But, Mahogany Row can smile at their certificates.

Anonymous January 23, 2009 12:20 PM

the us government’s own purchase order systems (there are many) often require a greater expense in man-hours to fill out the “paperless electronic” purchase request than the total cost of the item.

i’ve seen people so frustrated by the system they cancel the order (after wasting hours on it) or waste another hour or two going to buy it out of their own pocket

BF Skinner January 26, 2009 8:25 AM

I tend to aggree with @Alex but would go further in it’s bungled design. System owners pay for a set of requirements and frequently forget; all IT systems are ultimately for the user and should be designed with them in mind and in the design phase.

There is a word called “useability” why do designers leave it out of their designs?

Thsyrus January 26, 2009 10:16 AM

Being british I am familiar with the extreme bureaucracy that can sometime happen. Hell working as a cable operative we would spend most of our times filling in risk assessments and paper work.

Daniel January 26, 2009 10:53 AM

I know several people who worked as performance testers for this system while it was in development and the things I heard from them weren’t favorable and this was a couple of years ago. One would have assumed that these sort of performance issues would have been ironed out prior to release.

That said, I’ve worked with systems that work fine with test data sets but fall in a heap as soon as they get close to production data loads.


Fast January 29, 2009 5:59 PM

OMG – the union screaming about change. How unusual!!!! And NEWSFLASH….police use discretion all the time to “let people go”.
Maybe the police should stop whinging, learn the system and DO THEIR JOB!

David Thomas April 22, 2009 2:35 PM

“They are reluctant to make arrests and they’re showing a lot more discretion in the arrests they make ”

That doesn’t sound like a problem to me.

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