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Crime Technology

Prisoners Freed After Cops Struggle With New Records Software 128

itwbennett writes Police in Dallas are scrambling after difficulties using a new records management system caused more than 20 jail inmates, including a number of people charged with violent crimes, to be set free. The prisoners were able to get out of jail because police officers struggling to learn the new system didn't file cases on them within three days, as required by law.
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Prisoners Freed After Cops Struggle With New Records Software

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2014 @02:03AM (#47296233)

    ...I'm actually supposed to be getting *out* of prison.

    You're in the wrong line, dumbass! Let this dumbass through!

    • Idiocracy was closer, but Monopoly predicted this first.

      • I always interpreted that card as 'use your vast wealth, skilled lawyers and political connections to weasel your way out of court.'

        • 1 - Those three things are one and the same.

          2 - Are you certain nobody bribed those police officers to "make a mistake"?

          • by TWX ( 665546 )
            Don't attribute to malevolence what one can attribute to ineptness without evidence.

            Or put another way, it looks a lot better for the arresting officer if he has arrests that lead to trials that lead to convictions than if he has arrests where the detainee is set free because he can't fill out forms. The former gets one promoted, the latter gets one reassigned to something dead-end, or gets one assigned to the worst shift.
    • Oh, please [].

    • by Anonymous Coward

      From the ITWorld article:

      Problems will likely crop up "for a few more weeks" as officers become fully familiarized with the software and fixes are applied, according to Brown.

      So, if there are any banks that you've been thinking of robbin' or violence you've been wanting to commit, better make sure to get it done within the next few weeks.

    • Through the door, line on the left, one cross each.
      • by Barny ( 103770 )

        Ah, no. Freedom.

        Eh, freedom for me. They said I hadn't done anything, so I could go free and live on an island somewhere.

        Naa, I'm only pulling your leg. It's crucifixion, really.

    • by Vip ( 11172 )

      Monty Python's version []

    • And you know what they say, whenever you start using new software, you're gonna get some hop-ons.

  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @02:12AM (#47296253) Homepage

    Sounds like a typical bollix-up: the system was a drastic change from the existing one and difficult to use, and has performance problems on top of that, but management still sent it live and turned the old system off without making sure everyone had thorough training. On top of that they didn't have any extra resources on hand to help with the extra workload as people learned the new program on the job and didn't have anybody familiar with the program on hand to help the users. End result: the entirely predictable train wreck occurred. But of course the management responsible for this will never be held accountable for it. Instead the blame will be put on "the software", instead of the management who signed off on the software being acceptable when it manifestly was not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stephanruby ( 542433 )

      The new platform is made by Intergraph, an Alabama company, according to a report this week in the Dallas Morning News.

      An Alabama company? I guess that's what happens when your Excel programmers aren't paid the market rate [].

      • That assumes they're paying their Excel programmers. More likely they don't have any programmers on staff to pay, they subcontract that tedious and non-core-business detail out to an outsourcing firm in India or China or somewhere.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2014 @04:20AM (#47296517)
          My guess is the management just dumped the software on them, and its sink or swim time for whoever is below management.

          They did that to me at an aerospace company I used to work for. ViewLogic. On a 386SX running Doublespace. I sank. Miserably.

          Up to that time, I was quite comfortable using my old DOS tools... Futurenet CAD and PADS PCB. I had spent several years with those and had been introduced to these tools by experienced people.

          The new ViewLogic was introduced by removing my old machine and bringing the new machine, along with some books, and a 40-hour charge number to cover training. I rapidly fell way behind, which was good reason for my dismissal. I could never get the hang of operating that thing when it was so underpowered I never knew if I was successful in selecting an item before doing something with it, and I would commonly do something to a previously selected item. Drove me nuts.

          However, this was an aerospace company... funded by the government, Its not like they were actually trying to retain anyone. It seemed every Thursday, someone got the ax. If one played his p's and q's right, he got promoted to management, where they were a bit more immune to the layoff and better paid too - and besides they did not have to deal with trying to build the thing they promised to the customer, however the management jobs were usually filled by someone coming in from another aerospace company - often another one that failed.

          We were a big company at the time... and since we attracted so many resumes, an engineer wasn't worth much. It looked to me as if we were a dime-a-dozen commodity brought in to sign the line marked "responsible engineer". Something to be soiled like toilet paper, then neatly flushed.

          I get the idea the same thing happened here. Whether its learning how to play a new musical instrument, learning a new language, getting the hang of a new neighborhood,,, well all these things take some time. My time constant for this is measured in years. Too long, I suppose.

          I have been using EAGLE for about a year now, started at 4.16, now at 6.5.0 , and am finally getting the hang of it when I know something has gone wrong and what to do about it. Yes, I did make a few bad PCB when I do not know what I am doing; I did it with PADS too... - acceptable when one is designing Arduino test boards, but that kind of ignorance is ill-advised when its going into military use.

          In the end, the big company failed too. We created a heckuva lot of good stuff, but did not do anything with it. Garmin and Magellan sold stuff based on our work and made money. We just committed big retirement plans to the executives and later sent them on their way on golden parachutes.

          After my experiences there, I still have an extreme distrust for men wearing suits.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            This happened at a concrete plant I was working for. They went live with the scheduler not working, the. Layout system not working. Both of those things were my responsibility. It was one of many factors that caused me to quit, because I refuse to take on a job where failure is predefined.

            Since I left, they overscheduled something. No great surprise.

            Part of the problem was the software company was a team of VB scripters who didn't get their software running before selling it.

            Part of the problem was a change

        • They don't have to outsource to a foreign country []. Although in this case, that might explain a few things.

      • Insightful? I was not trying to be insightful. I guess nobody clicked on my link.

      • Can't we just blame VBA like we usually do?
      • by Minwee ( 522556 )

        Excel programmers

        I know what each of those words mean, but I just can't comprehend how they fit together.

      • I bet the new record keeping software runs on java or MS bastardized java (aka. dotnet). Maybe that's part of the problem. I personally can't stand java or dotnet, just the way it reads is way too bloated. By the way the overhead of programming and customizing Excel (97 and 2000, anything later sucks, if nothing else, requires "activation.") spreadsheets with VBA is minimal compared to having to read through and comprehend the intricacies of standard WinAPI, or even Java or dotnet. We used to have C, Basic,
    • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @03:27AM (#47296403)
      Users problems or more probably passive-agressive resistance. People are not as dumb as they pretend to be. They quickly figure out if there are "problems", that maybe they will fall back to the older, simpler methods quickly. Or bluntly put, we will follow the new orders from above exactly as we were told.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        And to further that spot-on comment, this is exactly the type of behavior you could expect from a unionized workforce. I saw this exact behavior from my father when I was a young kid and would go to work with him. He was a CWA member who ran a small central office for Southwestern Bell (when they still existed). He was almost exclusively the only one there, and he did ONLY what the teletype machine told him to do, and when it told him to do it.

        Because of him, I am extreme anti-union. He retired in the e

        • If you deploy new software where it does not improve the user experience, then it's valid for the userbase to punish that move to a reasonable extent.

          Not to the end result in this article of course, but sharing the pain inflicted by 'change for change's sake' with those who inflict it makes a lot of sense. Sometimes there are requirements to be fulfilled that do matter that make life harder for the users which justify inflicting pain upon the userbase, but in my experience the vast majority of change is a

          • If you deploy new software where it does not improve the user experience, then it's valid for the userbase to punish that move to a reasonable extent.

            This is what happens when you do this to your users instead of for your users.

            I have seen instances of IT saying "we're switching to this because it's cheaper/easier for us", and which left the business users completely screwed because IT didn't bother to find out how those systems were used, what depended on them, and what the business needs were.

            This sounds

          • Management where I work (large non-profit daycare & before/after school) listened to someone who wanted to replace our main childcare database with a modified salesforce implementation. The result was clumsy, lots of extra data entry, and had hard-coded fields that didn't apply. It ended up getting ignored and dropped by all the end users.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          What do unions have to do with anything?

          I'm not unionized but when my boss tells me to do something stupid and/or inefficient, I do it until I can "convince" him to come up with better methods.

          Contrary to popular belief: Most companies DON'T want their employees to think independently. They want them to do X task, using Y method cause when you have tens/hundreds/thousands of people each trying to come up with the "best" method, things quickly break down.

      • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @12:18PM (#47298487)

        Still a management problem. At one company where I worked they did it the correct way. First and foremost we added the end users into the whole project. This was asking them what they wanted to improve from the current system. Next we listend to them and saw that we implemented what they needed (not always what they wanted).

        We assigned key users (not supervisors or managers) from those endusers.

        We then kept them in the team for the whole development running. We knew upfront that some changes would be made. Things that were requested before would be unwanted afterwards.

        When the project was aout to be deliverd, we obviously included them in the testing on the floor. We even used those people when explaining it to THEIR cow orkers as ambasadors.
        This not only because they would be much better able to explain what the advantages were and how to do things faster because they knew boththe old and the new system. Not only that.

        The main reason was that it had become THEIR project. They were selling it to their collegues. It was not some far away CEO or COO deciding to change things for the sake of changing.

        If management does not factor in the human aspect, you are doomed to fail. Just saying "I know what is best for you." is not good enough.

        We had barely resistance when we launched as everybody already knew what the advantages (and disadvantages) were going to be. Indibviduals who were resiting were told to shut u by their collegues.

        As a result we were still on budget, under time with a high customer satisfaction and a great ROI. (for those of you who are manager) and less stress for us.

        So everybody won. Truth is that not many managers or management teams dare to do it this way. They rather listen to their supplier (e.g. IT) than their customer (e.g. person on the workfloor)

    • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @03:37AM (#47296429)

      ...and turned the old system off without making sure...

      It's not like the previous system of oversized crayolas and little yellow sticky notes was much better than the new system. Under the old system, the 20 inmates would have probably been marked released by the system, but kept in jail indefinitely.

      Man Suing Dallas County Jail

      May 30th, 2007 | By admin | Category: Dallas County, In The News

      By Jack Fink, CBS 11

      A North Texas man is suing Dallas County and the maker of its jail computer system for violating his civil rights. He claims he was lost in the system for six days.

      Jim Muise credits a political leader from a foreign country for helping him get released and now he wants justice.

      Muise is an automotive journalist. His stay in the Dallas County Jail kicked his emotions into overdrive.

      “I felt like no one on the outside was able to hear me,” Muise said.

      Muise said he was falsely arrested outside a Dallas restaurant for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

      “I had people, friends of mine, associates of mine sitting outside the jail the morning after I was arrested willing to post the bond, and they couldn’t find me to say how much the bond was,” Muise said.

      His name was nowhere to be found in the computer system in February, 2005, a month after it had gone online.

      Muise, who is a Canadian citizen, got so desperate at one point he made a collect call to relatives in Halifax, Nova, Scotia. Luckily for him, they’re close family friends with a Canadian senator who in turned called the jail to help find Muise.

      Muise was released the next day. “If not for my family and other people working so hard for me, I might still be there,” he said.

      He is now suing the county and InfoIntegration, the company that installed the software.

      “They knew, or should have known, that if their system didn’t work properly, people’s civil rights would be violated,” Muise’s attorney said.

      The company hasn’t responded in court yet, but in a similar case, it denies the system was faulty and inaccurate.

      The county hasn’t filed a response in court either, but Commissioner John Wiley Price said the county has corrected the problems.

      “We know where people are in the system,” Commission Price said. “We know when they come into the system.”

      Muise wants someone held accountable. “Somebody’s got to stand-up for what goes on,” he said.

      • Commission Price, eh? So that's why they lock up everyone they can find.
      • Perhaps this could be the origin of a new legal platitude []:

        'Tis better that 20 guilty persons are freed by a computer error (or computer operator error) than that one innocent person is kept in jail indefinitely by a computer error.

        (Doesn't quite have the same ring...)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Just a note, this article is about Dallas *County*, which apparently switched software in 2007 (see the date at the top of this article). The original article was about Dallas City Police, which have just switched over to a new system from Intergraph (the Alabama company), which had similar issues in San Antonio when they switched to Intergraph's system a couple of years ago.

      • That's your counter-point? ...that in 2005 a single guy's paperwork slipped through, and a drunk Canadian spent a couple extra days in county?

    • Yep. And rushing things like this through in order to fulfill someone's political ambitions is exactly what happened with tiny matters like, you know, health insurance.
    • Twice rather than once, by picking an application which have a steep learning curve for such a task. I cannot imagine you can make this process so complicated you are ending with a steep learning curve for the end-users while the role of the user interface is to ease everything for the user. How could a old system interface being easier to use than the new one? And easier up to the point it is really complicated and you have to invest a significant amount of time and money on training?

      How bad could be your

      • Doesn't have to be bad, just different. Just look at the amount of complaining that goes on here about Windows 8, or the Ribbon UI. I'm don't really want to discuss the merits or problems with the above, but even for people who use computers every day, for many hours a day, simply changing the user interface, for better or worse, can significantly impede people's ability to get work done.

        Most people would probably say that the current UI of (Insert Word Processor Here) is better than WordPerfect 5.1, b
      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        Steep learning curve would have been good. To have a steep learning curve means that you learn quickly. What they had wasn't a steep learning curve. It was a nearly flat one: you learn and learn and don't make much progress at all.

      • How bad could be your user interface to lead to such a thing?

        It could be the simplest of changes.

        Some booking clerk did everything, and then just didn't hit the submit button, on a batch of 20 intakes.

  • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskett&gmail,com> on Monday June 23, 2014 @02:20AM (#47296269)

    I see this is an unmitigated good thing. Accused of a violent crime or not, we are all endowed with the right, recognized and protected by the Constitution, to due process, and a speedy trial.

    IT problems don't abridge that right. Police officers having a tough day don't abridge that right. The learning curve doesn't abridge that.

    • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @02:26AM (#47296285)

      It's a good thing that the prisoners rights were respected, regardless of the problem being an IT one at root.
      It's a bad thing that an IT problem is causing cops to be unable to file paperwork that would result in proper processing of prisoners

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        It's even worse that the cops didn't escalate the issue after two days had passed and they were running out of time.

        • What's to escalate? When the schedule flat out doesn't work, and your calls to customer service get handed over to a customer svc agent's voice mail, unless they want to talk to you, and they don't... that was what happened with us, I have no idea what happened with them... escalate doesn't help.

          • What's to escalate? When the schedule flat out doesn't work, and your calls to customer service get handed over to a customer svc agent's voice mail, unless they want to talk to you, and they don't... that was what happened with us, I have no idea what happened with them... escalate doesn't help.

            In that case, an intelligent man wouldn't just have called customer service. They would have called customer service and told them that if the software provider doesn't send help, twenty violent prisoners will get released, and the prison admin will give these prisoners the addresses of anyone they can find at software company to say "thank you" to them in person.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              That would be a threat. But no problems, 3 days later you'd be released and have their address.

            • Why do you think violent criminals released from jail due to crappy software would be somehow mad at the software company?

              • Why do you think violent criminals released from jail due to crappy software would be somehow mad at the software company?

                Oh, the terror! "Emergency improve your implementation beyond what I probably paid for or else I'll send over fifteen guys to buy you beer!"

            • by GlennC ( 96879 )

              That assumes that "anyone they can find at software company" is anywhere near the jail.

          • by praxis ( 19962 )

            What's to escalate? When the schedule flat out doesn't work, and your calls to customer service get handed over to a customer svc agent's voice mail, unless they want to talk to you, and they don't... that was what happened with us, I have no idea what happened with them... escalate doesn't help.

            For starters, they could have filed their paperwork without using the new software. It stands to reason there was a system in place before this upgrade. I'm sure they had a plan B, right? If not, then I hope they learned a lesson.

          • What's to escalate? When the schedule flat out doesn't work, and your calls to customer service get handed over to a customer svc agent's voice mail, unless they want to talk to you, and they don't... that was what happened with us, I have no idea what happened with them... escalate doesn't help.

            1) Escalate to the purchasing decision-maker on your end.
            2) As purchasing decision-maker, call one or more decision-makers on the other end. Service, but if you don't get through right away, then whoever at the company you have a relationship with (sales rep? development engineer?), who will know who to call.
            3) If that fails, call and email company CEO. 3a) if that fails, company board of directors.
            4) Document, document, document, succinctly, what occurred in terms of the company's response. If they are

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Doesn't mean it's not stupid.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @02:51AM (#47296349)

      IT problems don't abridge that right. Police officers having a tough day don't abridge that right.

      No, but they should have a backup system to meet the 3 day requirement, regardless of any IT issues.

      • What's that mythycal backup thing you speak of.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          A word processor/printed file, or even legibly written handwritten file that is filed so as to be easily accessible, with instructions for its retrieval on the standard system until the file can be stored properly within the standard system?

        • by Neumann ( 240442 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @03:49AM (#47296455)

          It is what we in the business like to call requirements.

        • by mysidia ( 191772 )

          What's that mythycal backup thing you speak of.

          A mechanical typewriter a photocopier, and a manual courier to bring copies for manual filing to all concerned parties, if necessary.

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        " "was outdated, antiquated, not easily worked on, but it was familiar," Brown said. "This is a new system and very unfamiliar." "

        this being said, I can't really see filing the charges as being more cumbersome than doing the paperwork for letting them go.

        on top of that, once they do get around to filing the charges they'll need to go arrest them again. but many of the coppers just skipped the training and perhaps maybe, just maybe, didn't give a fuck if the charges were put into the system or not.

        • > this being said, I can't really see filing the charges as being more cumbersome than doing the paperwork for letting them go.

          I'm afraid it's not uncommon, especially at first. Handwritten documents have room for describing circumstances, many automated systems do not, or lack the necessary categories and wind up with the documents miscategorized or misdirected when first used. It's certainly common with trouble ticket and budget systems: I'm facing several such cases right now.

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      You are correct that nothing abridges that right. (I take the highly deviant and unpopular line that rights are inalienable, that that is why we don't just call them permissions.)

      To say that it is an unmitigated good is, though, perhaps not a conclusion you can safely draw. It carries the implication that all contributing causes were also good, which is self-evidently false. The right is good. The requirement that things be properly documented is good. The staffing levels are bad (police officers should be

      • by ruir ( 2709173 )
        Well, they can hire you and you will work overtime for free. Between the work, coffee and donuts, they barely have time to file the reports, have day? You are assuming they just handle that case and nothing else.
      • Great post. I think there may be cases where 6 hours is pushing it, but you're absolutely right that 24 hours should be a limit. If people are getting arrested where it takes more than 24 hours to gather enough evidence to charge them, then the police should be doing more research and collecting more evidence BEFORE the arrest.
    • Only labeling them terrorists does. Maybe they should have thought of that.

    • Due process and speedy trial could be argued as including additional processing time due to a new records management system. Obviously a reasonable amount of time should be considered, I'd think that some additional time, especially for a violent crime, would not be considered unreasonable.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "The law is real simple," Judge Rick Magnis from the 283rd Judicial District Court told the paper. "The Constitution in America says you can't hold people without charges."

    Except in Guantanamo.

  • After all, they're not the sharpest knives in the drawer.

  • You didn't think a test run was a good idea?
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @10:01AM (#47297523)
    An audit [] found this after the murder of Corrections Chief a couple years ago by someone let out early. The error rate is mostly due the complexity of readjusting sentences for new infractions in prison and good behavior credit. The errors are both longer and shorter.
  • If they only would have used an Apple product, or better yet an iPad, this never would have happened in the first place...
  • Suspect fell down the stairs.

  • 15 years ago this story would have been about how some buffoon had released prisoners because they put a tick in the radio button that said "not a prisoner."

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.