( LinkedIn )

In an effort to hasten IT solutions and modernization for police, fire and radio services departments, one of the East Bay’s largest cities has hired a new deputy chief information officer to lead tech across those agencies.

Oakland advertised the new position, for a deputy chief information officer of Public Safety Services, for about two weeks this winter, from Feb. 25-March 8 — and found the candidate it was seeking. Its new deputy CIO, Pavel Islam, who had been vice president of IT portfolio/Business Technology Services for Dallas since 2014, joined Oakland on July 1. Roughly three weeks in, he told Techwire he’s already quite busy guiding a series of ongoing updates to linchpin public safety systems, and more should be on the way. Among the takeaways:

• Islam has more than a decade of private-sector IT experience at companies including AT&T, IBM and Hewlett Packard. At Dallas, his first direct public-sector position, Islam spearheaded medium- and large-sized IT projects of $10 million or more. But an equally important role there was as a leader of cultural change, working with his teams in IT and other departments to smooth the way for IT standardization and modernization and to promote an understanding of process change.

“Continuous learning is what I believe in, so that’s what I preach,” he said. "There is no other way for growth as a person or as a team, and a team as a whole. You have to have that kind of attitude.” 

• His position was created, Islam said, to assist CIO Andrew Peterson and address public safety issues including data and operational needs and long-term IT planning. The hiring process involved several callbacks, Islam said, but a conversation with Peterson during his very first interview left a positive impression.

“I felt very enlightened and refreshed because his ideas and mine kind of aligned really well,” said Islam. “Our major task is going to be focusing on public safety first, and if we have the bandwidth, then we can contribute more as a deputy CIO toward other divisions within the IT organization."

• Several tech modernizations are already underway and should wrap up in 2019: Using state funds, the city is migrating its 911 system of more than a decade from Motorola to Vesta 911. Oakland is also updating from Microsoft Windows 7 to Windows 10; upgrading its password policies; working on a new records management system for police; and a new computer-aided dispatch system for police and fire. A new online inspection system for the fire department is also underway but may not be complete until the first quarter of 2020.

The city is also contemplating the best way to virtualize, moving on-prem servers to the cloud without affecting apps; and it's looking at what data the city has collected could be analyzed for internal operational efficiencies, or made public.

• Vendors, take heart: Other projects should be on the way, including one that cuts to the very heart of modern law enforcement. Oakland plans to do an RFP in 2020 to replace the Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) in its police vehicles — the same year those MDTs turn five years old. The goal, Islam said, is to start implementing in the year’s third or fourth quarter.