Police officers in San Jose, Calif., say that a new patrol car computer system is so complex and difficult to use that it is jeopardizing their ability to do their jobs, reports the New York Times. Since June, the police department has been using the new mobile dispatch system that includes a Windows-based touch-screen computer in every patrol car. Officers complain that routine tasks are so difficult to perform that they are discouraged from doing them. And they say that the most vital safety feature – a “call for assistance” command that officers use when they are in danger – is needlessly complicated.
Officers also say they were not consulted about the design of the user interface – how information is presented and how commands are executed using on-screen and keyboard buttons. Many have said they wish the department had retained and upgraded the old system, in place since 1990. Such complaints have a familiar ring. Anyone who encounters technology daily – that is to say, just about everyone – has a story of new hardware or software, at work or at home, that is poorly designed, hard to use and seemingly worse than what it was intended to replace. Yet because the safety of police officers and the public is involved, the problems in San Jose are of particular concern.