The Oakland, Calif., Police Department is under the gun to implement an effective computer system that tracks officer behavior. The department serves nearly 400,000 residents, yet lacks a reliable way to track data about arrests, complaints, use of force and more. Considered an industry standard among law enforcement agencies, such a system enables trend analysis and early intervention when problems are identified.

According to an article in the Bay Citizen, Oakland purchased a widely used system from Motorola in 2005 in order to meet a court-imposed deadline for several reforms, including comprehensive data tracking. When the company couldn’t make specific adjustments to meet the department’s needs in time, Oakland built a system in-house.

But the internal solution has been the subject of much frustration. The system suffers frequent crashes and data errors, and requires a lot of duplicative, time-consuming data entry. Court officials discovered major discrepancies in certain data sets in a recent review.

For their part, Oakland officials report that competitive bidding for a system that can effectively monitor department activities now and into the future will commence shortly. The Bay Citizen reported that the police department is considering a monitoring system from Microsoft, with a price tag of up to $3 million.

And the urgency of the effort is well founded. Federal Judge Thelton Henderson reportedly needs to see forward movement toward implementing needed reforms by July 2012 or he will assume control of the department.