Prisoners freed after cops struggle with new records software

Officers didn't get enough training on the new system, which went live June 1, according to Dallas's police chief

Police in Dallas are scrambling after snafus involving a new records management system caused more than 20 jail inmates, including a number of people charged with violent crimes, to be set free.

On June 1, the department went live with the new software, which replaced a 30-year-old legacy system. The new platform is made by Intergraph, an Alabama company, according to a report this week in the Dallas Morning News.

The prisoners were able to get out of jail because police officers struggling to use the new system didn't file cases on them within three days, as required by law, according to the newspaper.

"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."

Intergraph did not respond to a request for comment this week.

A Dallas police media relations staffer said the department had no further comment beyond what the Dallas Police Chief David Brown said in an interview did this week with a local reporter.

"We expected that there would be a significant learning curve," Brown said. One problem is that officers using the system didn't get trained recently enough and may have forgotten how to use the software properly, he said.

Also, some officers didn't take the training that was made available, he added. "It was a voluntary thing to get familiar with it, and some didn't take advantage of that."

Dallas PD's legacy system "was outdated, antiquated, not easily worked on, but it was familiar," Brown said.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

While the mishaps can partly be attributed to user error, the software is also running slowly and needs to be sped up, Brown said. "We let the vendor know that."

To this end, Dallas police union president Richard Todd told the Dallas Morning News the Intergraph software itself is a big problem.

"At this point, it does not appear to be a very user-friendly program," Todd said, according to the paper. The switchover has been "a nightmare," Todd added.

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.

"The frustration level is very high," he said. "We never want to get to a point where people who need to be in jail are not in jail."

But one thing that won't happen is a return to the legacy software, Brown said. The old system "was really way past its useful life," he said. "There's no going back."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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