In a major step toward meeting federally mandated reforms, the Seattle Police Department on Thursday announced it has opened outside bidding on the development of a sophisticated computer system to track use of force, biased policing and other vital information.
Building the so-called “Data Analytics Platform” has been considered a linchpin of the 2 ½-year-old reform effort.
Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, who inherited delays in the program when she took the job in June, had pledged to meet a March 1 court-imposed deadline for soliciting bids.
Proposals from vendors are due to the city by April 13, with the contract expected to be awarded during the summer, the department said.
Bidding on the department’s design specifications was listed Wednesday by the city, which has been relying on a stopgap computer system to track use of force.
The federal monitor handling reforms, Merrick Bobb, has made clear that the new platform, 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. Department of Justice 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.
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 tied to the consent decree, the department said in a statement.
It will also enhance crime-fighting work, the statement said.
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.
At an August court hearing, U.S. District Judge James Robart invoked violent unrest unfolding in Ferguson, Mo., following 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 and the tracking of it, 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 said she had her “ducks in order,” including the appointment of a civilian chief operating officer, Mike Wagers, 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 appointed Virginia Gleason, her chief strategic adviser, to the lead the SPD team. She worked with the city, the Justice Department and Bobb’s monitoring team to develop the request for proposals.
“The team drew upon the previous work conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2013, which provided a high-level assessment of the department’s technology needs,” the department said it its statement.
The department also worked with another contractor to perform a deeper examination of the department’s data and data sources from applications deemed critical to feed or support the data program, the statement said.
“In addition to pulling together information together related to bias-free policing,” the statement said, the new platform “will also consolidate other crime and performance data that will allow the department to extend its data-driven approach to crime reduction and organizational management.”
During development of the 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, according to the statement.