Police scrambles to fix QID glitch
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It seems to be human nature to attach significance to apparently random collections of letters and numbers, especially if they are linked to formative events in our lives.
Police QID (query identification) numbers fall into that category.
When recruits graduate from Police College, they transition into the real world of policing and in doing so they transform from being one of the mob of recruits during their 16-week training, to each having their own QID number on their shoulder.
For generations, the QID numbers of New Zealand police officers have been unique identifiers.
For those in the know, they can convey a wealth of information about the officer they belong to. For the public, they are a way of identifying who is on the other end of the long arm of the law.
At one time, QID numbers consisted of a member’s initials and four numbers that corresponded to the order in which they had graduated in their wing.
The system eventually changed to QIDs being issued alphabetically by surname and, as the numbers reached 8999, additional letters were included.
The QIDs have always been a source of pride, and humour. As one older member commented to Police News: “There was always a sense of pride if your QID was a number only. It meant you were experienced. For those who got the additional letters, the joke used to be ‘You’ve got an airplane seat number!’. Eventually, though, having just a number simply meant that you were old,” he joked.
There are also several members who are lucky enough to have “007” QIDs.
Now, QID numbers are randomly generated by an algorithm as part of MyPolice’s ERP (enterprise resource planning) system.
But this year, something has gone wrong. Older members of staff started noticing that some new constables coming through the system appear to have been issued QIDs using recycled numbers.
Last month, Police acknowledged there had been a technical issue with the automatic generation of numbers that had resulted in some QIDs being reissued.
Superintendent Rob Cochrane, director mobility and innovation, said that once a solution had been found, hopefully before the next wing graduates in October, Police would report more fully on the details of what had happened.
It’s a sensitive issue for members. Apart from the concern that the numbers hold a lot of significance to people even after they have left Police, an even bigger worry expressed by one member was that a number that had belonged to a police officer murdered on duty might be recycled.
“This would be very disrespectful in my opinion, and I could only imagine the fallout if that particular number happened to end up working alongside one of their old colleagues,” he said.
The reason for his concern was that the “E” and “F” numbers he had noticed coming through were not far off QID numbers that had belonged to slain police officers such as Glenn McKibbin, Murray Stretch and Duncan Taylor.
To further illustrate the point, he said one of the QIDs he had seen had belonged to a former supervisor who had been killed in a plane crash. “He was a serving member when he was killed but was off duty at the time. If he were one of my family members and I found that his number had been recycled, I would be very upset.”
Another member contacted the Police Association when he noticed that Wing 342 had graduated this year with what appeared to be recycled numbers.
“It seemed that up until the past few years that the system was regular and controlled. Yet recently we are moving through QIDs at a rapid rate. I am curious about how QIDs work and how Police have been churning through them so quickly.”
This unfortunate glitch in the system has deeply offended another member. “When I rejoined Police, I was told that it was not possible to get my original QID again and I was given a new one,” he said.
“Friends in other services, such as the military, have told me that their ID numbers remain with them for life.
“QIDs are a very personal thing and something that should not be recycled to new recruits.”
The issue of identification has other potential ramifications, according to a member who pointed out that QIDs are used by comms centre dispatchers.
“These days, dispatchers can see the QIDs of all staff who are logged into the system. Dispatchers often make deployment decisions based on the experience of an officer, which they assess from their QID numbers, potentially creating the risk that junior staff could be sent to incidents when the intention was to dispatch a more senior officer.”
Meanwhile, a story from Britain last month shows a respectful way of recycling ID numbers. A long-serving non-sworn South Yorkshire Police member, Michelle Phillips, who has just become a constable was given the same collar number, as they are called there, as her police officer father who retired in 2006 after 30 years’ service.