A missing element in the Apache Junction Police Department’s mobile computer system has left officers unable to file reports from the field. And the city is renewing a seven-year struggle to make the supplier provide the missing piece.
In 1999, Apache Junction paid $480,000 to North-Carolina-based software company VisionAIR for a state-of-the-art computer system. But it’s still missing software that would allow police officers to file reports electronically from the field, rather than traveling back to the police station to submit them.
Meanwhile, the city has explored taking legal action to force the company to provide the final piece of the system.
Most of the VisionAIR system works, such as components that allow police dispatchers to organize calls and track officers’ locations.
Apache Junction Police Chief Glenn Walp said that if the missing software were in place, the police department could reduce overtime, keep more officers at crime scenes and maintain a stronger presence in the community.
“If you have to do it by hand, it takes two to three hours,” Walp said. But with the software in place, “it could take you 15 minutes, and then you move on to the next incident.”
Walp said he’s working with VisionAIR to find a third party to develop the missing software. Walp said he will meet with a California-based company next month to determine if they can complete the VisionAIR system.
In a 2003 memo, George Hoffman, Apache Junction city manager, requested that Joel Stern, Apache Junction city attorney, sue VisionAIR.
“Although no date certain for completion was specifically indicated for this module, the fact that it still has not been accomplished is unacceptable,” Hoffman wrote. “It has been almost four years, and we still do not have this important component of our software package.”
Seven years have passed since the contract was signed, and this week, Stern said he reviewed the contract between the city and VisionAIR and found that Apache Junction didn’t have a case.
“The language was loose,” he said. “The form didn’t have a deadline. I don’t think there was a breach of contract.”
The contract doesn’t provide any deadline for Vision-AIR to complete the system and the issue has fallen by the wayside. Three police chiefs have come and gone since the contract was signed, and Apache Junction has struggled to rebuild its police force.
“We’ve been just trying to run a police department,” said Apache Junction assistant city manager Bryant Powell. “It’s the next thing that could really help (our) operation.”
Walp, who took over the department in December, asked the City Council last month to revisit the computer issue. Vice Mayor R.E. Eck asked Walp, “Didn’t we already buy this system?”
Apache Junction bought the system after VisionAIR responded to the city’s call for a software provider. In a letter dated May 3, 1999, the company promised to deliver a system that would provide the “utmost in productivity gains.”
“You can be assured that Vision Software, Inc. is committed to maintaining a technological lead in our industry,” wrote Chris Brown, VisionAIR account executive. “You will not find a greater level of commitment from anyone else.”
Michael Kleppinger, a VisionAIR spokesman, has refused to comment on the city’s complaints.
Powell said that the system is still incomplete and the city would like to see VisionAIR make it work.
“They’ve delivered about 80 percent, and the products have been great,” he said. “We’d sure love to see them step up and deliver the rest.”
Powell added that Apache Junction is the only police department in Arizona to use a VisionAIR system. He said the software company might be cautious about entering a new market.
“We can’t tell if they can’t figure it out or if they don’t want to invest,” Powell said. “If they use us as a reference, all we can say is, ‘They’re great — on four out of five components.’ ”