An Excerpt from American Savage and a Message All Straight People Need to Hear
The concern is always the same: The system is so riddled with bugs, glitches, and other problems that it's unsafe for officers to use. Cops have been incorrectly dispatched. The typeface initially was too small and pixelated for some officers to read while driving. Coordinates used in GPS locations sometimes fail to refresh as an officer moves. It's a complaint that initially had some merit, and city officials say they've worked hard over the past months to iron out most of the worst issues.
But a labor grievance over the new "computer-assisted dispatch, or CAD, system—filed by the PPA in May and obtained by the Mercury this week—reveals another reason for Turner's opposition. A reason, it should be noted, that Turner has yet to publicly offer in any of his correspondence or media statements. And that might be because it's hardly as sympathetic as invoking the specter of imminent, reckless harm to kids and cops.
In a word, it's this: discipline. Turner, according to the grievance, worries supervisors will use the new system's GPS feature to monitor officers' whereabouts and ding them if they're ever somewhere they're not supposed to be, doing something they're not supposed to be doing, among other possibilities. That shouldn't be allowed, he says, even if the GPS glitches are fixed. He wants a guarantee, like the one Seattle cops negotiated in 2008, that CAD data could never be the "sole" element in a case against an officer.
And while Turner says he really wants to help fix the system's safety issues, his grievance seems to indicate that doing so might not be enough.
Turner, when I called him this afternoon, was taking a break from the Ron Frashour arbitration hearing to catch up on messages. He wouldn't comment on the grievance, since it's the settlement process is ongoing. But he said, speaking generally, that safety issues "obviously are paramount. They're our No. 1 concern and always will be."
"They are getting some things fixed, but obviously not soon enough," Turner said of city officials, adding that PPA members are still encouraged to track instances when the system goes wrong.
Asked why he's kept his concerns over discipline out of the public debate thus far, he once again invoked safety. "Our main goal is getting the safety issues fixed."
Interestingly, though, city sources who also reviewed the grievance note that many of the problems cited in detail, in a follow-up letter submitted in June, relate to cosmetics and that some have already been fixed.
Commissioner Amanda Fritz, whose office is in charge of the Bureau of Emergency Communications, says she hasn't spoken with Turner about his complaint over discipline and how it ranks with his previous statements on safety.
"I just know the computer works and it works as well as we thought it would," she told me. "And we have diligently resolved the glitches. As to why there are multiple complaints, that's not for me to speculate."
But it does raise substantial question: If the union's concerns really are all about safety, then why tie a grievance to something else?
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