Incis sale okay with police on the beat

WELLINGTON - Selling the Incis computer system would be welcomed by frontline police if it meant putting the controversy of recent years behind them, says Police Association president Greg O'Connor.

But he warned that something must be put in its place, to prevent the loss of valuable intelligence gathered by frontline police over the past few years.

The Government is expected to announce today that it will sell a key component of the police Incis computer system - the IBM-developed mainframe - finally laying the project to rest.

While the cabinet made no indication of its decision after discussing the matter yesterday, Police Minister George Hawkins has said previously that money spent running the mainframe might be better spent elsewhere.

Mr Hawkins said earlier this month that there was plenty of capacity within the Wanganui computer system to deal with the type of technology favoured by Labour for police.

Mr O'Connor said yesterday that as long as police were not left worse off than they were before Incis, they would be happy. "The reality of it is that the sooner ... the huge distraction that is Incis is gone, the better.

"Let's face it, with Incis now - although everyone would deny it - it's essentially cost a commissioner his job, it's cost IBM a lot of reputation and a considerable amount of money and it's been extremely distracting for police. So there is a real need to get on with things."

Mr O'Connor said police would be concerned, however, if the information stored on Incis was lost as a result of the mainframe's being sold.

Another system would have to be put in place to process that information, which included police intelligence on gangs and other criminal activity.

While the Wanganui computer was not capable of processing such information, he understood it would be relatively inexpensive to set up a system capable of doing so.

Acting Police Commissioner Rob Robinson recently said police were struggling financially because of the "legacy of Incis," which cost $82.5 million after lengthy delays and cost overruns that culminated in IBM's quitting the project part way through.

Meanwhile, Mr Hawkins is expected to announce next week the outcome of talks with police over a two-year-old staffing review which was supposed to cut several hundred jobs.

The cuts were due to be finalised by March 31, but the process has been delayed by court action and other problems, although a large number of jobs have already gone.

Most of the job cuts were among civilian staff but Mr Hawkins said recently he was concerned that would result in frontline staff having to do more administrative work.

Mr O'Connor confirmed there had been talks over staffing but said he could not comment further because they were at a "delicate stage."

There was general agreement, however, among all the parties - the Government, police bosses and the Police Association - that the review had not been particularly useful.

- NZPA

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