Potential law and order problems erupting from year 2000 failures will be assessed by the New Zealand Police as part of its Y2K project.
Deputy commissioner and chairman of the police's Compliance 2000 steering committee, Barry Matthews, says law and order concerns is the final of the four stages in the Police year 2000 project. Work won't begin on that stage until next year, he says.
Matthews says there hasn't been a lot of information on the issue yet but he believes that will change as the "tick-over" date approaches. "As we get into 1999, I think more of that material will come through the Internet and other police agencies examining this issue."
He says there are "all sorts" of law and order-related problems which could potentially arise. While he doesn't expect the banking system to be a problem, its collapse would be the sort of thing that could trigger law and order problems, with people not being paid, unable to use ATMs or pay their bills.
"Will we need to have extra police on duty on January 1 and thereafter for a month to deal with some of these issues? We don't know the answer to that.
"If there's a lot of non-compliant equipment around and people get trapped in buildings or in lifts and so forth, then that's going to have an impact on both our call centres, in terms of 111 calls coming through, and also responding, along with [the fire service]."
Some commentators are predicting problems such as mass withdrawals from banks, and problems with telephone lines and power outages, and even civil unrest and looting could occur. The US-based Financial Post reports that Canada's military this month established an emergency response plan in case Canada has widespread loss of power, looting or civil unrest. The plan involves having navy ships posted on both Canadian coasts in December 1999 to provide emergency power if needed, as well as providing military assistance.
The first stage of the New Zealand Police Y2K project has already been completed. It involved examining IT systems, including networks and switches, to identify what was compliant and what needed to be fixed or replaced. Some systems that aren't vital, such as the suspect identification system, can be dealt with later. "In the meantime, there are other things we can do, using an artist and so forth. Increasingly we've been doing that anyway."
The second stage of the project has involved replacing the HR system (from PeopleSoft), and it's in the process of accepting a replacement financials system. The next stage involves looking at police systems such as security alarms, lifts, heating and lighting to see if any are affected, and if so, the cost of making them complaint.
The police then want to be satisfied that the police supply chain is compliant. Fuel suppliers are just one example. "We have to get assurances from them ... so we don't have the situation on January 1 when we pull up to the petrol station and find out the pumps aren't working and that we can't get fuel for our police car."
Suppliers are being contacted and asked for details on what they have actually done to gain compliance.
Matthews says the police expect to have a new computer system with the much-maligned INCIS project that will reduce reliance on the Wanganui computer (now housed in Auckland) in about June next year.
At this stage the project is on time, but Matthews says as a backup the Police are also looking at whether any components of the Wanganui system need to be made compliant. Services firm EDS is making an assessment on about 340 programs to gauge compliance.
"They'll look at which ones we'll be likely to need, and at what point they won't be needed when INCIS comes on," says Matthews.
He says the police have been looking at year 2000 issues for at least 18 months. He is unwilling to give specific costs for the project but says it's millions of dollars.