An article in today’s MJS reports on the growing frustration with IT projects at the Milwaukee Police Dept. The focus is on one in particular that’s supposed to identify “problematic” Milwaukee police officers.
The “Early Intervention Program,” first pitched by Chief Nannette Hegerty more than three years ago, still is in the works. The Police Department’s latest projection is that the program, budgeted to cost $500,000, will be working by late April.
The article goes on to point out the fact that some in City Hall are none to pleased about the what’s turning out to be chronic problems with IT projects at the Police Dept.
Ald. Bob Donovan, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, wants to know why the police have so many problems with computers.
“Anything technical at the Police Department is always millions over budget and years behind schedule, and I don’t know understand that. We need to get to the bottom of this, and in a hurry”
Like most rhetorical questions, this one also has an easy answer. IT projects are always late and over budget because the MPD doesn’t have the technical staff on hand to implement such projects as well as they should be.
And why is that?
Again, as with most things, it’s all about the money. A few years ago when I was in the job market, there were a number of positions at the MPD that caught my eye until I saw the ridiculously low salaries. While most people would look at the salary and say, “Gee, that’s a lot of money”, the fact is that you just can’t find the kind of good experienced IT talent you need for projects like the “Early Intervention Program” for $40,000 or $45,000 a year.
Why would any experienced IT people leave their jobs where they can easily make twice that to work for the MPD? And just to clarify, it’s a problem for every IT position in the public sector, not a situation that’s unique to the MPD.
The crazy thing is that hiring more qualified staff would actually save taxpayers money in the long run by keeping projects like this on time and on budget. But the fact is that the MPD budget is stretched thin already and their priorities are understandably focused on areas other than IT.
So while Ald. Bob Donovan may be asking the question publicly to raise awareness of the issue, I have to believe that in his own mind, he knows the real reason for the delays and knows the real solutions.
Now comes the tough part for him: taking that knowledge and proposing some solutions for the problem.