Audit: OPD squandered millions in taxpayer dollars

August 1, 2012 9:02:53 PM PDT
New findings show the Oakland Police Department squandered millions in taxpayer dollars. The city auditor's report found the department purchased crime-fighting technology, including a camera system and a gunfire detection system. It is equipment that cost $2 million and was never used.

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan agrees that money was wasted, and even though a majority of the issues raised by the auditor happened or were implemented before Jordan was the city's top officer, he says he accepts full responsibility.

"There's always room for improvement," Jordan said, who along with I.T. director Ken Gordon responded to a city audit Wednesday that criticizes the department for wasting close to $2 million on high-tech equipment that was barely used, and in some cases, not used at all.

"We have every intention of looking at every recommendation and doing whatever we can to comply with those recommendations," Gordon said.

Most of the equipment and policies were put in place prior to Jordan becoming chief in in February of this year, but the audit claims the department had been hemorrhaging cash since 2006, always trying to get more for less.

"You need quality as well as the lowest bid," Oakland City Councilmember Jane Brunner said. In most cases, the audit suggests, it was the former that was missing.

Three of the companies hired to provide services, equipment or both, went out of business, leaving a cash-strapped department with a lot of stuff that they couldn't use, service or update. Also in the audit, poor research on equipment before buying, a police department that kept shoddy inventory records and no oversight of technology systems. The report says that led to taxpayer dollars down the drain.

"I think thatyou have to not only go for the price, but you have to actually go for who has the ability to make this happen," Brunner said.

The audit also went after ShotSpotter, the system that allows police to track gunfire, saying it had been underutilized -- a claim the chief flatly denies. "It is one of the many tools that OPD uses to respond to and investigate the over 624,000 calls for service each year," Jordan said.

A bad review and another distraction for a career officer who wants attention focused on the progress the department has made under his leadership. "It is frustrating," Jordan said. "I would like to have at least one week where we're fighting crime and doing things I signed up to do 24 years ago, but it's part of being a chief in a big city."

Late Wednesday afternoon, the president of the Oakland Police Officers Association told ABC7 News that on Sunday the radio system once again went out completely, not only creating a dangerous situation but "leaving police officers with the only means of communication being their personal cellphones."


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