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Audit Report: Technology Problems At Center Of Joint Dispatch Troubles

Leon Co. Administrator Vince Long, City of Tallahassee Administrator Anita Favors-Thompson and Leon Co. Sheriff Mike Wood listen to the findings of an audit of the Joint Dispatch Center, 3/13/15.

The company hired to run the tech for Leon County’s Joint Dispatch Center is being fined $200,000, and counting.  An audit of the center has found widespread problems with the new systems created by Motorola.

Leon County paid about $2.5 million for the Motorola system. It runs everything from how police records are stored, to how calls are received, and first responders dispatched. But the system crashed nearly a dozen times during the past year, and outages and slow servers and routing problems were common. Still, county administrator Vince Long says the agency isn’t giving up on the system…yet.

“We’ve left the door open-obviously as you heard today, for that conversation if the system isn’t meeting our expectations," he says.

Administrators say the new system should have been tested more thoroughly before going live. The audit comes after two high-profile incidents brought the center’s functionality into question. One was a slow response time to the shooting murder of an FSU Professor.  Another, the ambush of first responders that left a Leon County Sheriffs Deputy dead.

Tallahassee Commissioner Scott Maddox ordered the audit. He’s satisfied with the results, but remains critical of the tech company.

“What I’m interested in is a system that works. And if we continue to have outages I will continue to be critical of it until it’s up and running in the most efficient and effective manner possible.”

Maddox says he was most surprised to learn the most recent system outage occured last week, and lasted for about eight minutes.

Motorola is being fined nearly $200,000. It's already paid back $50,000 in overpayments, but faces another $148,000 in claw back due to delays in getting the Tallahassee Police Department's record system operational. Those penalties could increase. The city auditor found five other municipalities have similar Motorola programs—three report problems and one fired motorola as its vendor. The audit also found problems with employee certifications and turnover.

Dispatch Center managers say those issues have been or are in the process of being fixed. The audit has been posted online.

Meanwhile. Dispatch Director Tim Lee is standing by a decision to fire three employees following the death Sheriff's Deputy Chris Smith, who was killed by a gunman during an ambush of first responders on Caracas Court. 

Dispatch administrators say a premise alert system was not properly used. The audit of the center found certain alerts were mandatory to click on, but others were not.  Lee says all alerts must now be acknowledged, and technology upgrades to ensure that happens are forthcoming.  

“The policies and procedures are being implemented now. The technical enhancement will be coming later, in July," he says. "But we’ve already been working with the vendor to get it deployed sooner, rather than later.”

The audit found 112,000 calls have been received with premise hazard warnings attached, but only two-percent of the alerts were opened. Data about what type of alerts could not be retrieved by Motorola.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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