Sharing information across jurisdictions is essential for law enforcement to keep pace with criminals and terrorists who are not limited by geographic boundaries.  More so than anyone else, local cops see this played out on their streets every day.  For example, there may be a burglary that takes place in one town and the perpetrators sell the stolen goods to a pawn shop in another.  While some policy and process hurdles remain to make information sharing a larger reality nationwide, the technology exists today to make it happen.

“Using this technology is what our community expects of us,” said Irvine, Calif., Police Chief Dave Maggard.  “If we have the technology available to keep communities safer and catch more criminals, that’s what our mandate should be as law enforcement personnel and it’s something we can all rally around.”

Chief Maggard participated in an i2-sponsored information sharing panel discussion at the recent International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference.  Irvine is a key partner in Orange County’s information sharing system, which is managed by the Integrated Law and Justice Agency for Orange County (ILJAOC).  Built with i2’s COPLINK, it connects the County with Oregon, San Diego, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, Mesa, Ariz., Tucson, Ariz., Spokane, Wash., Sacramento, Calif., and Boston.  With almost a quarter billion records, it’s arguably the world’s largest law enforcement information sharing system.

“Information sharing is no longer a technology issue,” said Bob Griffin, i2 CEO.  “Those barriers have come down.  We’re seeing our customers make great strides in making sharing a reality.  It boils down to overcoming the cultural, political, protocol and process issues.”

The panelists stressed different ways to overcome the non-technology hurdles that still exist.  All agreed that technology is no longer the issue.  The keys to success revolve around people, resources and sustainability.  And it begins with engaging key stakeholders.

“In Alaska, setting this up for success depended on strong advocates at all levels, including those that were persuasive and persistent throughout the process,” said Bob Griffiths, Executive Director of the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police.

As the Director of the US DOJ, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center in Alaska (NLECTC-AK), Griffiths was instrumental in helping implement Alaska’s Law Enforcement Information Sharing System (ALEISS) that includes 80 agencies.  Using COPLINK, it was the first statewide information sharing program.

Aligning the stakeholders can include experts you would not necessarily expect.  Chief Maggard and the ILJAOC involved city mangers, city attorneys, records personnel and even the public defender’s office.  The goal was complete transparency of the process.

“A major key to success is to identify the full scope up front and have a sustainability plan for information sharing projects,” said Tim Riley, former CIO of the Los Angeles Police Department and now a Senior Vice President at i2.

While with the LAPD, Riley played a pivotal role in implementing a sharing initiative within the Department that brought together four disparate records management systems and linking it with the ILJAOC.

In Alaska, according to Griffiths, they were really smart about getting the technology up and running, but a “key lesson learned was the lack of a true sustainability plan to keep the system going well into the future as it is challenging to go back to the table and get the additional funding.  You want to do that up front.”  That said, Griffiths is confident that he and his peers can leverage the success they’ve had to keep the program intact.

And speaking of success, immediate ROI is achievable once the technology is up and running. Examples include:

  • Alaska — One of the smaller agencies had a pawn shop report about two individuals that stole two rifles and disappeared.  There was limited information including a tattoo that said “Alaska.”  That information was entered into the COPLINK system and only two people came up, with one living nearby.  Since that person had an extensive record, officials were able to identify his associates easily.  The search only took four hours.
  • Los Angeles – There was a serial robbery case that became increasingly violent with every incident.  The only data had been a partial license plate that was inadvertently transcribed.  That information was put into COPLINK. Two of the plate letters – even though they had been transcribed incorrectly – led to identifying a suspect who was caught in the act.  Twenty robbery cases were closed that day and would have otherwise remained unsolved without information sharing in place.
  • Irvine – A donation box for a non-profit was stolen from a fast food restaurant.  CCTV footage caught a video of a suspect that had a tattoo.  A flyer was created based on the CCTV image.  A dispatcher taking initiative entered the distinctive tattoo information into COPLINK and found a match.

“The great thing about sharing is that you can look at relationships between individuals who may have only spent a fraction of time together, but creates additional leads that you would never have had with a single or multiple record management systems,” said Griffiths.

The panel at IACP was moderated by Lauri Stevens, founder of LAwS Communications and the ConnectedCops blog.

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