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Hearing on Y2K Conversion and Public Safety

Monday, June 28, 1999
Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

Chief Charles H. Ramsey
Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, DC

With me today are several key members of my Y2K team:

  • Assistant Chief Ronald Monroe, Regional Operations Command, North - Chief Monroe is responsible for contingency planning in terms of police operations
  • Director Penny Steinhauer, Information Technology Division - She is responsible for the critical IT systems I will cover today.
  • Commander David McDonald, Criminal Justice Information Division - Commander McDonald has responsibility for all non-IT matters—everything from emergency communications, to facilities and fleet, to breathalysers and office supplies.

The so-called "Millennium Bug" presents a unique set of challenges for the Metropolitan Police Department. Like other large organizations, we must find and fix potential problems in our information systems, and we must develop backup plans should those systems fail. At the same time, we have the added—and truly awesome—responsibility of ensuring public safety ... should other critical systems outside our immediate control suffer Y2K failures of their own.

Planning for both of these contingencies is an enormous undertaking. And, quite frankly, like the District government as a whole, we got off to a late start. But we have assembled a strong team that is very talented and dedicated to seeing the MPDC—and the District as whole—succeed in meeting the challenges posed by the Y2K bug. And this team has put together a solid and thoughtful plan of action for addressing the critical components of our Y2K responsibilities. This morning, I will outline for you the highlights of those plans.

But before I get into the details, I do want to raise one issue that I will return to throughout my comments this morning. That issue involves procurement. Many critical aspects of our Y2K plan are reliant upon the speedy and efficient procurement of goods and services—including hardware, software and human talent. If our Department—indeed, if the entire public safety infrastructure—is to meet our deadlines around Y2K planning and implementation, we must have the full support of the District’s Office of Contracting and Procurement. That support must involve not only the timely procurement of goods and services ... but also assurances that we can contract with the vendors we know can do the job. In some instances, that may require us to bypass the lowest bidder in favor of the highest quality bidder.

For us to succeed in making our critical systems ready for the Year 2000, we must have both speed and flexibility in the procurement process. This issue is too important, and the deadlines too inflexible, for anything less.

On the Information Technology side, we have eight critical projects under way, which I will touch on briefly. The first two ... and probably the most critical ... are CJIS—our Criminal Justice Information System—and WALES—the Washington Area Law Enforcement System. These two systems maintain all arrest and criminal history information, and provide access to gun and property registrations and Department o Both CJIS and WALES are quite old and outdated, and both are in the process of being replaced with a new, integrated records management system. But the new system will not be ready before the end of the year, so we have begun remediation to make the current systems compliant, which would include revising the current code and testing applications in the new environment. Right now, we are in the final stages of crisis management—where necessary hardware and operating systems are replaced, and existing code is evaluated. We expect to have both CJIS and WALES ready for final testing in October and November—assuming, of course, that key procurements are completed on time. While I am confident these systems will be operational on January 1 ... as a backup we will literally print out copies of the existing databases, so they can be searched manually.

Our CAD—or computer-aided dispatch system is also scheduled to be replaced in the near future. However, we will have to rely on the current system into the new year. CAD, of course, is the system that assists our dispatchers in assigning calls for service to patrol cars in the field and for monitoring the status of assignments that have been given. Our current CAD hardware is Y2K compliant, although the operating system does need to be upgraded. Our plan is to install and test the upgrade by early September. We are also developing fixes for the radio consoles that our police dispatchers use. I am reasonably confident that, as long as the basic telephone system is operational, we will be able to efficiently receive and dispatch calls for service come January 1.

The next system is WACIIS—the Washington Area Crime Intelligence and Information System. This is the system in which detectives store case information during their investigations. WACIIS is a third-party system that has been upgraded by the vendor. Testing will begin early next month to ensure compliance.

TACIS—our time and attendance system—is another third-party system that is currently being upgraded by the vendor. Remediation and testing are scheduled to be completed by September.

Our property information system, called AEGIS, requires various upgrades as well. Procurements have been submitted, but not processed yet ... so I do not have projected dates for compliance testing.

The LiveScan fingerprinting system is Y2K compliant, according to the vendor. We are currently interviewing the vendor about its testing procedures and documentation.

The last major system is the MPD-Net ... which controls all networking within the Department. Major upgrades—including the replacement of network hubs, district modems and servers—are needed to make the overall network Y2K compliant. Some older desktop computers may also need to be replaced. As with other systems, many of the MPD-Net upgrades are in procurement—and will require timely and accurate processing if we are to meet the Y2K deadline.

On the IT side, then, some of our critical systems are already Y2K compliant, while others are in the process of being remediated and tested. We know where our problems are, and we have a plan to address them. At this point, there is no critical IT system that cannot be fixed.

Briefly, I want to cover the status of some key non-IT projects that we consider mission critical. For the most part, these systems are already Y2K compliant:

  • Fleet - We have determined that all of our vehicles are Y2K compliant ... as are the tools, monitors and electronic equipment used for maintenance and repair.
  • Communications equipment - The vast majority of our communications equipment is Y2K compliant—including hand-held radios, antennae and test equipment. As I mentioned, we are developing fixes for the radio consoles, which may not be compliant at this time.
  • Facilities - All of our backup generators, boilers, heating and air conditioning systems, and elevators are the responsibility of the Department of Public Works. We are working with DPW to assess any Y2K issues. In addition, our voice mail system is being upgraded.
  • Prisoner processing - In addition to LiveScan, all of our other systems that support prisoner processing and identification are Y2K compliant.
  • Breathalyser - Our Intoxilizer 5000 has been tested to be Y2K compliant ... so we will be prepared to handle anyone foolish enough to drink and drive on New Year’s.

Overall, we are in good shape in the non-IT areas.

The final area I want to cover this morning is our contingency plans for public safety. These may be the most difficult plans to develop ... because we just don’t know what to expect. Our philosophy in developing these plans has been simple: hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Come January 1, we will be prepared for any disruption in critical services. And, of course, we will be ready to deal with any criminals who may try to take advantage of any localized or area-wide disasters.

Our operational contingency plan is still being finalized, evaluated and tested ... but I can share with you some of its key components:

  • First, I have restricted all leave and other days off—unless previously approved—for all sworn and essential civilian staff. They will work the holiday weekend ... with 12-hour shifts beginning at 10 am on December 31st. We will have sufficient numbers of officers on the streets of DC to handle a wide range of contingencies—on New Year’s and as long as they are needed.
  • The Department will activate its command center at the same time the Federal and District Emergency Management Agencies begin operations ... on December 28th. Between now and then, we will continue working with other law enforcement and emergency management agencies under the auspices of the Washington Area Council of Government.
  • We will designate at least one "satellite station" in each of our 83 PSAs—or police service areas—where citizens can go to get police services ... in the event that electricity or telephone service fails. These satellite stations will be staffed around the clock by sworn and civilian members. In addition, we will identify other site in the PSAs—fire houses, community work stations, warming centers, etc.—where people can also access emergency services.
  • The emergency generators at all of our district stations will be checked on a bi-monthly basis through the end of the year, to ensure power in our facilities should the grid fail.
  • We have inventoried our critical supplies and will have what we need well in advance of December. That includes flashlights, radios and other critical needs.
  • Finally, we will be sending all of our PSA lieutenants and selected other officials to training on managing critical incidents—so they will be better prepared to handle any problems on their PSAs.

I have provided you with a lot of information this morning. I hope it is helpful. In closing, I would like to return to something I alluded to earlier in my presentation. A lot of the information systems we are now scrambling to upgrade and make Y2K compliant are extremely old—frankly, they should have been replaced years ago. We simply cannot afford ... ever again ... to continue applying band-aids to these mission-critical information systems—unless, of course, we want our successors to be here one day worrying about the Y-three-K bug.

As I mentioned, the Metropolitan Police Department is now in the process of replacing many of these antiquated and inefficient systems with new and modern information technology—with systems that will allow us to do our jobs better and more efficiently. In the future, we must do a better job of staying ahead of—or at least, up to speed with—the technological curve. Technology is changing faster than ever before. Let the Y2K bug be a clarion call for all of us to be more visionary and more aggressive in our pursuit of technological excellence in the future.

Thank you very much.