Info Sharing

I’m sorry Sir, it’s against the law

I’m sorry Sir, it’s against the law

There are plenty of arcane, not to say bizarre laws in the UK.

  • MPs aren’t aware of wear armour in parliament.
  • You can’t beat or shake a carpet rug in any street in the Metropolitan Police District.
  • It’s illegal to import Polish potatoes (put on the Statute Book in 2004)

For more examples, see here.

Some of the laws don’t prohibit behaviour but officially sanction it:

Like the right to drive sheep across London Bridge as freemen of the City of London

Or the right for pregnant women to relieve themselves anywhere they see fit.

However, as usual, we must acknowledge the superiority of our US friends when it comes to the wild and wacky category:

See the infographic below to find out:


Strangest Laws Still in Effect Today

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.


Smarter Approach to Public Safety Leads to Smarter Approach across Entire City

At last fall’s International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference, IBM previewed its new i2 Intelligent Law Enforcement offering. Billed as “the convenor of the ecosystem for public safety,” this new software solution promised to help law enforcement organizations bring down silos with Big Data capabilities that combined tactical lead generation, predictive policing and intelligence analysis.

Fast forward to today. IBM has announced a Smarter Cities initiative in partnership with Miami-Dade County that links the public safety with the city’s entire ecosystem of operations. With a focus on cutting across organizational boundaries to provide better services to residents, IBM is helping Miami-Dade County modernize and improve the predictive management capabilities of systems tied to law enforcement, transportation and water.

According to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, “Making Miami-Dade County more efficient and cutting the red tape that slows economic progress are priorities, and this initiative with IBM is a great way to accomplish both of those goals. We look forward to making vital data more accessible to our municipal partners and to serving our residents even better.”

In the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), access to advanced analytics technology helps officers fight crime and ensure public safety. As one of the first law enforcement agencies in the nation to use an advanced crime data warehouse, MDPD has expanded its use of IBM technology to help officers and investigators make better decisions faster with a new ability to look for links among disparate crimes or situations and provide officers with a more complete view of a given situation. The system can link directly into park systems and other department operations for cross-agency collaboration and lead generation.

Using IBM SPSS predictive analytics, MDPD can bring together data in new ways to identify unique relationships and spot new and unknown patterns that have significant operational value for officers. The system can use information such as property stolen, time of day, weapon used, and victim details to model what kind of suspect typically commits a particular crime and then generate and filter a suspect list to help solve cases faster. This type of analysis can also be used to help predict, anticipate and prevent future events.

The IBM i2 Intelligent Law Enforcement solution builds on the MDPD’s existing technology investments and will provide MDPD with a holistic view across policing and justice partner agencies – removing barriers to information sharing and enabling agencies to focus solely on their mission of predicting, preventing and defeating criminals. It works by bringing together disparate data sets and allowing the entire department access to data they need, using officers’ time more effectively when they are looking for information. It will also incorporate MDPD’s existing use of predictive analytics for suspect lead detection.

Clouded in Confusion: Demystifying Cloud Computing

It’s like water

The term ‘cloud computing’ befuddles many. When computers first appeared on our desks at work, in order to do anything we had to buy software and install it on the box in our offices. Today, because everything can live in the cloud, one can literally purchase all his or her computing needs from a service provider who operates in the cloud. In the beginning it was about SAAS or Software as a Service. Today you can purchase virtual servers, storage, database services – organizations can now choose to place some or all of their IT systems in the cloud. These newer capabilities are referred to as infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) and platforms as a Service (PAAS) can also come from the cloud. Not only that, but the information in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere. Just like drinking water, all one needs to do is turn on the tap.

According to Wikipedia, “The term ‘cloud’ is used as a metaphor for the Internet, based on the cloud drawing … as an abstraction of the underlying infrastructure it represents.” Clouds can be public, private or a hybrid. Public clouds, (like social networks) are available to the general public. Private clouds exist solely for the use of the organization and can be located internally or externally. Hybrid clouds describe a combination of two or more clouds that talk to each other but are separate entities.

The one certainty is that cloud computing is causing a fundamental shift in information technology for organizations. Businesses large and small are starting to leverage cloud services, which means that sheriff’s offices large and small need to follow suit.

Taking a cue from the business world

In today’s economic times business leaders are increasingly focused on economies of scale, law enforcement too can learn from these practices. Just as any business that is hyper-focused on its core business, Sheriff’s agencies might better enable themselves to focus on crime fighting by outsourcing what’s not considered primary to its overall mission. Scalable, secure IT infrastructure is essential to any sheriff organization but isn’t easily achievable with slashed resources and constant threat of data breaches.

Brian Doyle is the Vice President of IT and Data Center Services at PCNet Inc., a Connecticut-based IT services company. His company is increasingly contacted by government organizations that no longer have the resources to replace aging systems, “these organizations have legacy applications which require new infrastructure to support them and because of staff reductions they probably don’t have the IT resources in place to safeguard data.” To earn industry certifications such as SAS70 Type II and SSAE16, companies like PCNet must meet strict standards that ensure physical security, networking security and sound business operations.

Data security is of paramount concern to all but with recent highly publicized data breaches, law enforcement is increasingly worried about protecting the data they gather. This summer, after the BART Police in California shut down cell-phone service following a threat of protest at a few of its underground rail stations, members of the hacker collective calling itself Anonymous infiltrated BART databases at least twice. The first time the hackers gained information about more than a hundred police officers that they subsequently posted online. The second time, the hackers released information on about 2,400 BART customers. The protesters were calling attention to a recent officer-involved fatal shooting of a homeless man.[1] “Everybody is concerned about whether or not they can keep their data protected and what are they going to do if there’s an attack. Generally IT professionals have more experience at dealing with these types of attacks than your average law enforcement IT guy”, stated Doyle.

Scalable Innovation

Law enforcement leaders are approached regularly by companies who have innovative applications that would benefit their organizations in some way. The disconnect often occurs at the point where a purchase decision is to be made which in turn requires research and then installation on in-house servers. Additionally, many of the most innovative applications need a lot of computing power to run them.

Scott Mills is the Vice President of Global Information Technology for Conservation International. He said taking something innovative to scale is one of the primary benefits of using cloud computing services, “before, if I wanted a solution I had to buy a server and software and spend time figuring out what I wanted. Now it takes 5 minutes to turn on SAAS in the cloud, now I have capability to do things I wasn’t previously able to do”.  For Mills it isn’t about having a “cloud strategy” but more about having a strategy of which the cloud is a part.

A example of this is the Baltimore Police Department’s use of Xora’s Field Force Manager Software program. The application is not only used to coordinate efforts in crowd control situations, but also to track the location of officers by the dispatchers. Without the computing power offered by the cloud, running such a program would not be possible. [2]

What does the cloud mean for forensic investigations?

While those in the IT services business, like Doyle, would argue that he is better equipped to ensure data security, many organizations are hesitant about moving operations to the cloud and cite security and the relinquishing of control as two of the top reasons why.

For law enforcement, one significant issue is obtaining evidence from cloud-based systems.  These systems store data on massive storage arrays that make forensic data acquisition much more complex. Cloud providers haven’t designed a way to comply with forensic investigations and investigators have likewise not offered procedures either. In most cases, in a cloud environment, the investigator is not going to be able to get his or her hands on the actual physical device storing the data and current forensic investigation standards require direct access to digital evidence[3].  Further complicating an investigation is that different processes might be outsourced to different cloud service providers, each one with its own terms of service and each one in a different geography with possibly even several countries involved.

Security experts also point out that the low cost and flexibility that attracts businesses to cloud-based services also attracts criminals, and these services make it easier for criminals to cover their tracks and operate with significantly more anonymity in the cloud. Eric Jacksch is an Information Security expert who manages the Canadian Security Practice for a global IT services company. He outlined a scenario where a criminal could use a throw-away cell phone, a prepaid gift card and a fake email address to set up shop to commit fraud. “A few years ago, if you wanted to start a system you had to purchase or rent a physical server. Today you can rent virtual servers on the cloud by the hour, they’re dirt cheap and you can delete things when you’re done.” That system can also easily be moved around according to Jacksch, “and by the time a victim gets a credit card statement the server used to commit the fraud simply doesn’t exist.  We’re now in the era of the throw-away server and it’s going to be a nightmare for investigators.”

On the other hand, a diet-drug scam investigation provided what is known as the first search warrant benefiting from a suspect’s use of cloud computing last year. FBI agents were able to obtain incriminating data more easily because it existed on Google’s cloud servers rather than the suspect’s own hard-drives. The 1986 Stored Communications Act allows the government to access a customer’s data whenever there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the information would be relevant in a criminal investigation. Even though the Feds obtained a search warrant they did not have to meet the standards for “probable cause”, nor did they have to go to the suspect’s location.[4]

To Jacksch, the cloud isn’t more or less secure than traditional IT systems, just different. “So much depends on the provider and the way in which the services are managed and used”, he said, and added, “you’re giving up some control to the cloud provider but having control doesn’t always mean having better security. We can achieve a high level of security in the cloud.  However, poorly managed cloud services can lead to disaster just as quickly as poorly managed traditional IT servers.” The cloud-enabled ability to instantly back up data is significant to Jacksch, “many small organizations simply can’t afford the type of backup capability that cloud providers offer.”

Cloud computing requires a different approach by investigators.  On one hand, recreating a crime scenario in a cloud computing environment may become nearly impossible. Among the reasons is that data on the cloud often exists in several places and is mobile, making it difficult for an investigator to find and obtain the data in its original form. On the other hand, multiple copies of data and near-instant backup capabilities may allow the investigator to find or capture evidence that would have otherwise been overwritten.

While cloud computing is one of the most talked about developments in information technology, even IT professionals are struggling to absorb what it means to their organizations. Whether they outsource IT services or not, sheriff’s agencies in the future are quite likely to find themselves increasingly pushed to cooperate with other agencies as they struggle to understand the cloud, through all the haze and the fog.

[1]Melrose, Bob, “BART Hacked Again; Police Officer Data Released”, CBS San Francisco,
[2] Gourley, Bob, “Cloud Computing for Law Enforcement“, Cloud Computing Journal, April 28, 2011
[3] Reilly, Denis; Wren, Chris; Berry, Tom. International Journal Multimedia and Image Processing. “Cloud Computing: Pros and Cons for Computer Forensic Investigations”. Vol; 1. Issue 1. March 2011.
[4] Poulsen, Kevin. “Spam Suspect Uses Google Docs; FBI Happy”. April 16, 2010.

This article was previously published in the NSA’s Deputy and Court Officer magazine.

From Internet to Interoperability: New UCLA Research to Benefit Public Safety Agencies

As a former police officer with the LAPD, watching the television footage of Japan struggling to emerge from the triple disaster of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant malfunctions strikes close to home and serves as a sober reminder about the importance of an interoperable communications system for first responders.

Now that the FCC has decided that all 700 MHz public safety mobile broadband networks must use Long Term Evolution (LTE), cutting-edge technology can be used to protect the public.

As the skeletal frames of a national public safety network begin to take shape, public safety will benefit from some of the best minds in the field – including researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

UCLA has recently announced that the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science is establishing a partnership with Raytheon to create the UCLA Center for Public Safety Network Systems. This center will help lead the way in the innovation and advancement of public safety technologies and standards. As the center’s first funder, Raytheon will provide a research grant of $1 million over three years.

Without question, the public safety field will benefit from UCLA’s extensive network experience. The university’s depth of knowledge in networking technology is unparalleled as it holds the enviable claim to history of being the birthplace of the Internet. UCLA engineering students and facility have also contributed to some of the biggest technological advancements in the last century, from blueprints for establishing a space station in the 1950s to the world’s first reverse osmosis plant and hybrid gas-electric vehicles.

With its prestigious reputation and first-rate research facilities, the UCLA Center for Public Safety Network Systems will attract leading experts across academia, industry and public safety agencies who will study open architecture options, broadband applications and standards-based systems of communications. This research, in turn, will complement any research and development that’s being conducted by corporations. For example, researchers at corporate R&D departments like Raytheon’s new Public Safety Regional Technology Center, which is opening in Los Angeles County this summer, will easily be able to tap into the findings at the UCLA center.

Perhaps the UCLA Center for Public Safety Network Systems’ most important function will be to serve as a neutral space for assessing products and networks, and establishing industry standards. For public safety, the next step is an integrated LTE communications network. As we enter this new phase, companies, researchers and public safety officials will all benefit from research that places the safety and interests of citizens first.

Advancing Data Sharing at the Local Level and Beyond

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.

For more information about i2, visit