LAPD Computer Program Is Short-Circuited by Feud : Law enforcement: A field sergeant developed cost-saving software, but officials refused to buy it.
Returning home each night from his shift as a police field sergeant, Craig Crosby grew ever more frustrated that the Los Angeles Police Department had no way to accurately measure its crime-fighting efforts.
Sitting in his den, bent over the gray-lit screen of his home computer, the sergeant eventually developed an automated system to gauge officer deployment and measure patrol effectiveness.
Through trial and error, he came up with what the department brass would say saves thousands of manpower hours and allows officers to step up their street patrols.
But when top LAPD administrators were unable to decide on his program, he activated a kill switch and one morning the Police Department computers using his software went blank.
Crosby was ostracized and banished, transferred to one of the farthest police stations from his home in the San Fernando Valley. He was punished with what some in the department call “freeway therapy.”
While other police agencies in Southern California are showing a keen interest in Crosby’s program, the sergeant has filed a claim seeking monetary damages against the city of Los Angeles, contending that Parker Center administrators attempted to destroy his reputation.
The episode can also be viewed as an example of the type of management failings highlighted by the Christopher Commission in its review of problems in the Police Department.
Computer experts outside the department estimate that the Los Angeles department could have saved millions of dollars had it embraced Crosby’s system.
“It’s complete mismanagement,” said David Oller, who is marketing Crosby’s computer system outside the LAPD. “I came to the realization that the managers there make no logical sense at all.”
Sgt. Harry Ryon, who has helped Crosby defend himself against harassment from his supervisors, took it one step further. “Mismanagement isn’t quite the word,” Ryon said. “I think command arrogance is closer.”
Police Cmdr. Jimmy Jones, who first embraced Crosby’s computer program and then rejected it because of ill-feelings about the way the sergeant conducted himself, denied that the Police Department retaliated against Crosby.
“He says that, and it’s all been investigated, and as far as I know, nothing came of it,” Jones said. “He claimed a whole bunch of things, but I had no part in any of his reassignments or anything else.”
Jones declined to comment further, citing Crosby’s claim against the city and saying that department personnel are prohibited from discussing such legal matters. “But I wish I could,” he said. “And I sincerely mean that.”
However, the commander did add that department personnel continue to evaluate patrol deployments by hand, and that “we have no standing program now” to match what Crosby created.
Charles Drescher, director of the LAPD’s computer systems, said the department has only been able to develop variations of Crosby’s system. “The program seemed to be useful,” he said. “It was useful in the application as it was intended.”
Crosby, 35, joined the department in 1977. Two years ago, while working in the Wilshire Division, he felt that the department did not have a good way to measure officer deployment. Daily logs were reviewed and compiled by hand, he said, often taking weeks and months before any statistical picture was available. By then, he said, the data was outdated.
“As a sergeant, I had no clue as to what was going on out there,” he said. “I knew what we were trying to do. But we had no statistical detail on what our officers were doing out on the street.”
When the Police Department won a grant that summer to study deployment, Crosby participated in the study, spending hours off duty and on his home computer. With a bent for mathematics and computerese, he developed a software package he dubbed Data Management Systems. It allowed police analysts to put down their pencils and directly input daily patrol field data into the computer.
The data included field interviews, investigations, types and numbers of arrests, traffic stops and other routine police duties that in the past had been handwritten and evaluated. With Crosby’s system, it allowed the department to shortcut that time-consuming process.
“The potential was unlimited,” he said.
Feeling an allegiance to the Police Department, Crosby signed an eight-page licensing agreement with Jones, permitting the Police Department to test his software at six stations during a 90-day period.
Once the system was being tested, the station captains fired off a series of memos to their supervisors, praising Crosby’s creation and strongly urging that the program “be adopted on a permanent basis.”
“For the first time, reports on productivity trends and goal attainment can be evaluated by management in time ,” wrote Capt. John R. Wilbanks of the Pacific area.
“With timely reporting by watch commanders and supervisors, data can be almost immediately available. This puts Pacific Division in a position to be proactive, rather than reactive, to its goals.”
Capt. John E. Moran of the Hollywood station said: “Overall, the DMS shows great promise.”
With rave reviews coming in from department middle-managers, Crosby entered into agreements with a Woodland Hills computer marketing firm and a private software company in Billings, Mont. He was eager to sell his package to other police agencies.
He said he also decided to donate the package to the Los Angeles Police Department. “The LAPD had it for free,” he said. But he needed a timely response from Parker Center in order to market it elsewhere.
When the LAPD continued to use his software beyond the 90-day period, without making a decision on whether it wanted it permanently, Crosby pulled the plug.
He said he warned them first, though. Crosby said he advised Jones and other supervisors that they had violated the 90-day agreement. He said he told them a couple of weeks later that they had better start making computer printouts because their screens were about to go dark.
“I wanted to wash my hands of dealing with them,” he said. “So I copy-guarded it and I built in a shutdown switch and I programmed it to kill itself.”
One morning, the lights went out.
Crosby said he was transferred from the Wilshire station the next day to the Newton Division, the farthest destination from his house. For months, he was repeatedly passed over for a transfer closer to home. Only last month, he said, was he given a new job at the West Valley station. But he said that occurred only after The Times began asking questions about his problems with the department.
Jones, in his memo leading to the LAPD’s decision not to obtain the program, conceded that Crosby’s system was “superior” and that it “would save untold additional officer hours and aid in the investigation of personnel complaints.” But he urged its rejection “due to the past practices and the poor reputation” exhibited by Crosby when he erased the data from the department’s computers.
Meanwhile, computer experts at Tech Time in Billings fine-tuned the program to make it marketable to other departments. Kim Hanson, Tech Time’s president and owner, said his experts met several times with LAPD officials, and came away with the sense that the department was in “very, very bad shape” computer-wise.
Hanson also was upset that the LAPD seemed to think it had a free right to Crosby’s creation just because he was one of their sergeants. “If that were true,” Hanson said, “the LAPD would own all the royalties to Joseph Wambaugh’s books.”
Likewise, Information Dynamics Inc., the Woodland Hills marketing company, spent months trying to get the LAPD to reconsider. David Oller, the company’s vice president for sales, at first thought that Los Angeles’ participation would clear the way for dozens of other agencies to follow.
But he could not get Parker Center officials to budge. “The LAPD has been a piece of work all in itself,” he said. “They are real tough to work with. And that surprised me, because they could have saved $16 million to $18 million a year if the entire program was up and running.”
Oller now expects to sell the program to four other police departments in Los Angeles and Orange counties, and said he has targeted hundreds of others in California, Arizona and Colorado.
Bewildered with the turn of events, Crosby asked to see Chief Daryl F. Gates. Three requests were denied, he said. He then wrote the chief a letter, explaining that what happened to him “reinforces the ‘we-don’t-care’ attitude so prevalently conveyed by the command staff.”
“These are only a few of the incidents that promulgate ill will and completely undermine stable employer-employee relations,” he told the chief. “The department is now overwhelmed with apathy and acrimony.”
Crosby said his letter has gone unanswered for more than a year. Gates could not be contacted Thursday by The Times to address the sergeant’s concerns.
Pointing to a copy of the Christopher Commission report, Crosby said his problems prove that the “scathing criticism” about police mismanagement found by the commission was warranted. He said he next plans to sue the department.
“This is just another example,” he said, “of guys like me who go out day after day to improve the Police Department, but don’t get the management support we deserve.”