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Study finds 'significant issues' with Baltimore Police Department's technology resources

The Baltimore Police Department’s technology systems are in such disarray that officers sometimes don’t know what tools are available to them and come up with their own fixes that only deepen the chaos, according to an internal review released Friday.

The department worked with the National Police Foundation to determine what computer systems it currently uses, documenting them in a 103-page report. The report was required under the civil rights decree police have been working under since 2017 after U.S. Justice Department investigators found officers routinely violated people’s rights.

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The study found half a dozen problems, including records being held in a “massive hard copy file system that requires significant space.”

Problems stemmed from a lack of training and funding, and not having senior officials with responsibility for information technology projects, according to the report.

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The study found that “IT training is virtually non-existent” and that the department does not have enough staff members to implement technological and statistical requirements of the consent decree.

The department’s current record management protocol is based “entirely on manual data entry,” which requires “an extraordinary amount of time and staffing” and has resulted in a backlog of thousands of reports that need to be entered in to a records system.

The report’s authors concluded that the department faces “significant issues.”

“There is a significant use of personnel resources to manually process, review and track reports that can be eliminated with the implementation of appropriate IT solutions,” they wrote.

It has been a year since a federal judge signed the consent decree between Baltimore and the U.S. Department of Justice into an order of the court mandating sweeping local police reforms. What progress has been made?

Police spokesman T.J. Smith said the report was an accurate picture of the department’s “out of date and inefficient” systems. He said it will lay the groundwork for making improvements.

“This is an example of the many requirements within the Consent Decree that will provide a significant benefit to the public and to the officers,” Smith said.

The police department and Mayor Catherine E. Pugh are banking on new technology to help fight crime and follow civil rights rules. The department is aiming to use new decision making centers to analyze data more quickly and deploy tools like license plate readers and gunshot detectors to aid officers’ eyes and ears.

The department said it will use Friday’s report to inform a forthcoming resource plan, which will outline how the department can provide personnel with the technology they need to efficiently complete their duties, including fulfilling the terms of the consent decree.

A federal judge said in April that the police department was “bumping against problems with technology” in every aspect of its attempt to conform with the consent decree.

The comments from U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar came about a year after he approved the consent decree between Baltimore and the Justice Department, which had found a pattern of unconstitutional and discriminatory policing in the city and sued to mandate changes.

Baltimore Sun reporter Ian Duncan contributed to this article.

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