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Oakland Chief of Police Howard Jordan ( D. ROSS CAMERON, STAFF FILE)

OAKLAND -- Oakland police have squandered nearly $2 million over the past five years on technology systems that were never used or underutilized, a city auditor's report has found.

The report, which is being released Wednesday, faults the department for not performing due diligence before purchasing technology systems and for not adequately managing or tracking the systems after buying them.

Oakland's Department of Information Technology also was criticized for poor record-keeping and for failing to effectively work with police technology staffers.

Poor communication between the two departments this year has delayed efforts to replace the city's computer-aided dispatch system, whose contract expires at the end of the year, the report found.

Of 12 police technology systems studied, four never were implemented and one was underutilized, according to the report. The vendors of three of the failed systems later went out of business leaving the city with no opportunity for a refund.

"The bottom line is that the Oakland Police Department has mismanaged technology for years and citizens have a right to be outraged from it, because basically we've thrown dollars down the drain," City Auditor Courtney Ruby said.

The report does not delve into the department's unreliable new radio system, which made headlines recently after it failed officers on the night of President Obama's visit.

The auditor's findings included:

  • The police department purchased technology systems without budgeting funds to maintain and service them.

  • The city neglected to obtain performance bonds for the technology systems that could have resulted in refunds after vendors went out of business.

  • Police lack a long-term strategic technology plan and its technology purchases have been predicated primarily on taking advantage of available grant or city funds.

  • The city's nearly $500,000 ShotSpotter system, designed to help police detect and respond to gunfire incidents, hadn't been properly utilized in part because police had only one dedicated computer for the system, which wasn't always monitored.

  • Both the police department and the city's Department of Information Technology failed to maintain records for technology contracts, forcing the auditor to create an inventory of police technology systems and their associated costs.

    "For OPD not to have knowledge of its own technology systems in the middle of a public safety crisis is inexcusable," Ruby said.

    City officials did not respond to requests to comment on the report Tuesday.

    In a written response, contained in the report, the city accepted that management controls could be improved and pledged to implement the auditor's recommendations.

    However, the city disputed Ruby's conclusion that $1.87 million had been wasted.

    City officials contended that ShotSpotter had not been underutilized and that performance bonds to insure the systems can be so costly that some vendors refuse to bid on projects that require them. They also said that the auditor ignored a couple of successful technology purchases and that hardware and technology from some of the failed systems had been used by the department for other technology upgrades.

    The city estimated that police had misspent just under $600,000 -- about 8 percent of its technology budget.

    Additionally, the City Council in June approved funding a technology official for the police department to work on procuring new systems and coordinating projects with city technology officials.

    Ruby, who lives in East Oakland, said she wanted to audit the police department to make sure that its limited resources were being spent soundly during a period of increasing violence.

    One of the reasons technology was seen to be a high-risk area was the city's long-chronicled history of problems with its public safety radio system, Ruby said.

    The radios didn't figure prominently in the report, which focused on reviewing administrative oversight rather than the effectiveness of the systems.

    Among the failed systems were Evalis, a database that was supposed to help police track questionable actions by officers. The police spent $65,000 on the system in 2007, but the vendor was purchased by Motorola, which refused to support the system unless the city agreed to increased payments. The city instead used its knowledge of Evalis to develop its own system. However, that system has proved troublesome, and police are now looking at buying a new system to fully comply with a series of court-ordered reforms.

    Police in 2007 spent at least $1.2 million on an in-car video system that recorded officers interactions with residents. The technology never worked and the vendor went out of business, however, the department was able to incorporate the system's server and fiber optic cable, valued at $600,000, into its new system of police lapel cameras.

    Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6345.