By Deputy Chief Jim Chu, Vancouver Police Department, British Columbia, Canada, and Chair, IACP Law Enforcement Information Management Section
he IACP Law Enforcement Information Management (LEIM) Section formed in 1976 when a small group of law enforcement technology managers met in Alexandria, Virginia. In the mid-1970s, the use of computers in policing was rare and was mainly confined to a few large agencies and backroom administrative tasks.
In the past three decades, the use of information technology in policing has proliferated, and the LEIM Section has assisted law enforcement agencies in the use and applications of information technology (IT).
LEIM Technology Conference
The remarkable growth of the LEIM Section’s annual midyear technology conference has reflected the increased importance of IT to law enforcement operations and administration. For example, LEIM gatherings 10 years ago would attract around 100 delegates. The most recent LEIM midyear conference (May 2006) in Grapevine, Texas, drew more than 750 attendees. The 2007 midyear technology conference and trade exhibition will be held in Greensboro, North Carolina, from May 21 to May 25.
The annual LEIM conference serves as a focal point for the efforts of the IACP Technology Coordination Panel. For instance, three IACP committees meet in conjunction with the conference: the Private Sector Liaison Committee, the Criminal Justice Information Systems Committee, and the Communications and Technology Committee.
A highlight of the LEIM preconference activities is the technology tutorial for new practitioners. Often, sworn officers are placed in command positions with responsibility for technology projects or IT administration. These managers often have little prior experience in the IT field and are placed in these positions for career development purposes or because of their operational knowledge. Similarly, some IT professionals who have no police experience are placed in leadership roles and are tasked with delivering IT tools in the law enforcement environment. The tutorial provides a head start to these IT leaders by discussing the priority applications in the law enforcement field and major IT trends and recommending impartial resource materials that are available in print and online.
Another preconference event is the National Institute of Justice In-Process Reviews, which highlights cutting-edge technology projects. This session is open to all delegates, and lively discussions often arise in relation to the practicality and relevance of particular projects. For example, one noteworthy past presentation discussed software-defined radio, which might someday solve many of the interoperability problems currently plaguing public safety. In 2006 the presentations included the following:
- CapSit Open Source Records Management Systems (Scott Porter and Sheriff D’Wayne Jernigan, Val Verde County, Texas)
- Predator and Prey Alert System and Large-Scale Code Breaking (Dr. Sudhir Aggarwal, Florida State University)
- Voice over IP Communications System (Major Dean Hairston, Danville, Virginia, Police Department)
A successful part of the LEIM conference is the partnership with vendors who have access to a technology-savvy delegate base. They are able to promote their products without having to worry about speaking over the heads of the attendees. They often obtain valuable feedback on their product directions or latest enhancements. Some vendors are invited to present during LEIM workshops if their submissions are judged to be sufficiently noncommercial and applicable to the conference themes. Delegates can often do comparison shopping at the conference, as many suppliers from the same product field are present. The focus of these vendor-client exchanges makes LEIM the premier forum for the necessary partnership between law enforcement customers and technology solution suppliers.
The LEIM Section also organizes the Technology Institute Track workshops at the annual IACP conference. An executive version of the IT technology tutorial is presented at each annual conference. At the 2006 conference in Boston, sessions of note addressed mobile computing realties and information sharing standards. In addition, the LEIM Section shares best practices (including past conference presentations) at the IACP Technology Clearinghouse Web site (www.IACPtechnolgy.org).
The LEIM Section is led by an elected board of directors. Current members are as follows:
- Deputy Chief Jim Chu, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Police Department (chair)
- Pam Scanlon, executive director, ARJIS, San Diego County (past chair)
- Lieutenant Dave Mulholland, U.S. Park Police (vice chair)
- Captain Eddie Reyes, Alexandria, Virginia, Police Department
- Major Dean Hairston, Danville, Virginia, Police Department
- Chief Mark Marshall, Smithfield, Virginia, Police Department (IACP vice president with oversight)
The section’s first conference outside the United States was in Canada, with a co-host arrangement with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) Informatics Committee. The purpose of the gathering was to allow the exchange of best practices in the use of IT to increase operational effectiveness. Police officers are also knowledge workers, and their ability to make investigative and operational decisions vastly improves when they have access to current and accurate information and intelligence.
The 2006 LEIM Conference in Vancouver
An initial target for attendees of 125 delegates was set and the registration went so well that registration process had to be closed due to facility size limits. The conference attracted more than 200 delegates from around the world to unusually snowy Vancouver, British Columbia, in late November 2006 to hear presentations on conference themes:
- The use of IT to combat terrorism
- Mobile computing best practices
- Technology to protect borders
- National and international information sharing
- Radio interoperability
- Securing law enforcement IT systems
- IT and strategic planning
At the Vancouver conference, Chief Mark Marshall greeted delegates on behalf of the IACP. Chief Jack Ewatski of the Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Police welcomed delegates on behalf on the CACP and helped increase senior police executive attendance by scheduling the CACP National Executive meetings adjacent to the conference. Ewatski highlighted the importance of IT in supporting frontline operations and noted the strong CACP support for information sharing.
Mark Evans, director of analytical services with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, discussed the use of analytical tools in law enforcement to detect crime patterns and trends. Mark joined the Northern Ireland Office (Belfast) in 1992 as the head of intelligence in a multiagency unit that played a significant role in tackling paramilitary (terrorist) racketeering. One of his presentation themes was the use of software to link the massive amounts of data that can stream into an investigation, especially with major cases.
Superintendent Darrel Stephenson, in charge of business information technology services in the Victoria, Australia, Police, outlined the scope and challenges of a large IT project that he has led for a police agency that has more than 13,000 employees.
Chief Harlin McEwen, a retired assistant director of the FBI and retired chief of the Ithaca, New York, Police Department who today serves as chair of the IACP Technology and Communications Committee and as communications advisor to the Major City Chiefs Association, discussed new developments in radio spectrum allocation. Spectrum is in short supply for public safety and is vitally needed as police agencies deploy global positioning systems, video, and other bandwidth-intensive wireless communication tools.
John MacKillican, chief information officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), outlined current and future information sharing projects in Canada. In addition, he described current sharing operational information examples including several success stories.
The first international IT conference was deemed a success. Attendees shared contact information to facilitate future networking. Not all events were formal business sessions. Social events included casino night and a bus tour of Whistler, British Columbia (co-host with Vancouver of the 2010 Winter Olympics).
In the conference wrap-up session, Superintendent Keith Bell of the Royal Bahamas Police reiterated an offer to host the second LEIM International IT conference in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. Delegates who were experiencing the unusually cold temperatures in Vancouver quickly endorsed the choice of a warm location.
The 2007 LEIM Conference in the Bahamas
This conference is tentatively scheduled for late November 2007. If you are interested in the midyear conference or the international conferences, please check the Web site (www.iacptechnology.org) often for details. ■