Bad software lets Australian criminals off the hook

IT is a basic requirement for any application that it helps the user to be more productive or more effective, in what they do. But it doesn’t take much experience of using business applications to learn that this is not always the case.

And on the streets of Queensland, Australia, that sorry reality of software design is helping criminals go unpunished for their crimes.

According to a report in the country’s Courier Mail newspaper, Queensland police are “turning a blind eye to crime” in order to avoid having to use their information management system.

The QPRIME system, which cost local taxpayers a cool AUS$100 million (£46 million) and was implemented in 2006, is so difficult to use that tasks that previously took minutes now take hours.

“[Police officers] are reluctant to make arrests and they’re showing a lot more discretion in the arrests they make because QPRIME is so convoluted to navigate,” Ian Leavers, vice-president of the Queensland Police Union told the paper.

In one example, two policemen who arrested two suspects for a number of charges had to spend six hours on QPRIME writing it up.

The Queensland Police Service insists that “the benefits of the QPRIME system into the future far outweigh short-term disaffection by some officers.” Given that the system’s shortcomings are directly helping criminals escape arrest, those future benefits must quite considerable.

So-called ‘paperwork’ has been a perennial bugbear for police forces the world over. In May 2008, several UK forces revealed that they had decided to boycott mandated data entry processes – and saw a marked improvement in performance as a result.

 

And there are lessons for all businesses. Observed wisdom dictates that information is power, and that all minutiae must be recorded in case they one day become useful. But making sure that the burden of data capture does not prevent people from doing their jobs requires a more nuanced assessment of the value of information. g

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media (now Bonhill Group plc) from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The...

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