Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Computer virus plagues TPD for two weeks

No files permanently lost on the 200 terminals affected

Police Officer Larry Lopez had read 18 e-mails before he opened one instructing him not to turn on his computer: A computer virus was spreading through the department.

That was almost two weeks ago. Tuesday, Lopez was allowed to boot up for the first time since then. He generally uses a computer daily.

About 200 Tucson Police Department computers were affected by the virus, but all were taken out of service and checked out, said Ann Strine, the city’s chief information officer.

About 25 computers are still down, undergoing a slow reconstruction, Strine said.

Patrol car laptops and communications systems weren’t affected because they are on separate networks, she said.

But for days, at least some officers were unable to write reports, input evidence or access records. It left many officers wondering how they did their job before computers became commonplace.

“We did more by cell phone,” Lopez said of the past two weeks. “You had to think of things to do that don’t involve computers.”

Officer Mike Gurr responded to questions about what he did by gesturing pulling his hair out.

Newly installed police Chief Roberto ViIlaseñor had a more positive spin on the episode.

He said it represented a healthy reality check, a test of bureaucratic reorganization and an indicator of social change.

“Two years ago, officers would complain about typing up their reports,” he said. “In a way, (officers’ dismay at losing computer access) is a measure of success.”

The influx of information technology experts into TPD also demonstrated the benefit of the recent consolidation of city department IT sections, Villaseñor said.

Having so many computers out of service at one time tested how TPD would function if there were a more serious emergency, he said.

“We’ve got to be flexible,” he said. “I think it was a good exercise.”

Strine anticipated no lingering problems from the virus and said no files were permanently lost. Officers were notified of the virus by phone and through messengers, as well as through e-mail, she said.

Lopez said he was glad to be able to just log back on.

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