It’s official: The LAPD ain’t going to Google

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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.

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