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Summary:

After a long-running controversy, the Los Angeles Police Department will definitely not move to Google Apps. And that’s final.
The City Council voted to kill the proposed deployment of Google Apps to the LAPD although the city’s other 17,000 employees are still aboard.

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After a long-running controversy, the 13,000 employees of the  Los Angeles Police Department will definitely not move to Google Apps. And that’s final.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to officially kill a proposed deployment of Google Apps to the LAPD.  The city’s other 17,000 employees–those outside law enforcement — will keep using Gmail, the Los Angeles Times reported last night.

The council voted unanimously to change the terms of the $7.2 million contract signed in August 2009, to enable LAPD to stick with its existing Novell Groupwise email system, according to the Times’ report.

A source close to the matter said LA renewed the contract for another year in September 2011, with an option to add two more years. And, according to a report to the council, Google’s obligation to fund Groupwise licenses is capped at $350,000 per year for the life of the contract.

Two years ago, the LA-Google deal, with CSC acting as contractor, was trumpeted by Google to show that Google Apps – Gmail, specifically — was ready for use by large organizations. But the LAPD had misgivings about how secure Gmail is. For law enforcement and court officials who must deal with sensitive information — evidence, names of confidential informants, etc. — security is critical. Because the LAPD must communicate with the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies, its communications must meet federal Criminal Justice Information Security standards, as well — something no cloud-based mail is yet able to do.

That means the issue  is not as much about Gmail per se as cloud-based email in general, a fact conceded privately by even some Google competitors. A spokeswoman for LA city council president Eric Garcetti reiterated that today. “This is about the security of cloud. There are federal as well as local security requirements that must be met,” she said.

For it’s part, Google  has long maintained that the LAPD inserted new requirements after the contract was inked, stalling deployment.

According to an emailed statement from a Google spokesman:

We’re disappointed that the City introduced requirements for the LAPD after the contract was signed that are, in its own words, ‘currently incompatible with cloud computing’ …  Even so, Los Angeles taxpayers have already saved more than two million dollars and the City expects to save millions more in the years ahead.

Even though this might not be a Gmail issue, the publicity is definitely not good for Google. Google only does cloud-based mail, so if this mess causes other agencies or cities to rethink a move to Google Apps, that hurts the vendor’s efforts. And it could boost competitors like Microsoft and IBM that offer email in both on-premises and cloud-deployment models.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user LifeSupercharger.

  1. LAPD and its City Council do not have a deep understanding of data in the cloud.

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    1. doyou think their understanding is any worse than, say, fortune 500 companies?

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    2. And you do? And you also understand the CJIS requirements for data transmissions? And you understand the infrastructure currently in place for LAPD?

      Why don’t you write them up a personal guarantee for about $500,000,000 then. If you’re so confident that you’re smarter than the LAPD, you should have no problem guaranteeing them if they switch.

      By the way… This wasn’t the officers making the decision in a vacuum. The decision was made by a control board on recommendations from a variety of sources – including their own internal legal and IT areas. The cops might not know all of the ins and outs of cloud data and its security, but I guarantee you that the support folks do.

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  2. LAPD is making the right move by not switching to Gmail’s cloud based email application. In this situation the sensitivity of information transmitted/stored on LAPD’s (government) networks may be too high to be stored offsite. The security of that information can not and should not be trusted to an outside entity. While a move like this could save a great deal of money in the long run it is ill-advised and I believe the LAPD is well aware of that fact. Kudos to them!

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  3. In my opinion, LAPD is making the right move by not switching to Gmail’s cloud based email application. In this situation the sensitivity of information transmitted/stored on LAPD’s (government) networks may be too high to be stored offsite. The security of that information can not and should not be trusted to an outside entity. While a move like this could save a great deal of money in the long run it is ill-advised and I believe the LAPD is well aware of that fact. Kudos to them!

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  4. IMO, LAPD knew that Novell Groupwise could not keep up with the requirements they seem to need, and also knew going in, that they could get free Novell Groupwise licensing as a backdrop from Google. Just saying..

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  5. If I was too trust an external source with my data it would be Google. The policies, talent, and infrastructure that would look after this data is far superior to anything an internal system / team could do .

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  6. LAPD is making a wrong move, I guess they are headed by people who don’t understand technology all that much. Maybe they still send snail mail a lot I think.

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    1. Bob, there is actually a regulation, i’m told, that PROHIBITS LA law enforcment from putting ANY confidential information in email and that reg pre-dates the contract. I’m not sure how anyone gets around that but i’m sure they do or try to. Thanks for your comment.

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  7. as i understand it, the contract is for Google Apps overall but LA employees can use Microsoft Office as well. But for non LAPD employees, Gmail is their only email option.

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  8. Heck if LAPD was now wants to remain with an on-prem solution – they’d be better of with Zimbra, the Zimbra web offering is significantly better than Gmail

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  9. I’m a big fan of cloud computing, but this was the most prudent move on the part of the LAPD. I’d only ever expect law enforcement to use cloud-based solutions if they were actually built and maintained by federal institutions, as opposed to private for-profit companies.

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  10. Security-wise, Google Apps is not enterprise-class. It was built for end-users, not organizations. Among other requirements, the current CJIS policy requires a highly-detailed level of auditing of access that is simply not available in Google Apps (see CJIS Policy Area 4: Auditing and Accountability). No organization should be using it for sensitive or protected data. Like most technologies, when it comes to compliance, *how* you use it is what matters.

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