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Back to Archives | Back to October 2004 Contents 

From the Assistant Attorney General: Increasing Information Sharing to Help Reduce Crime and Respond to Emergencies

By Deborah J. Daniels



Deborah J. Daniels
Deborah J. Daniels
Asst. Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
US Dept. of Justice
espite amazing technological advancements, too often our public safety agencies are still unable to share information easily and effectively with one another. This constitutes a major roadblock to providing proactive, coordinated responses to crime. Many examples purport to show how improved data sharing and analysis among law enforcement agencies could have led to apprehension of the terrorists involved in the events of September 11, 2001, thus averting the attacks.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has been at the forefront of the discussions on enhancing justice information sharing capabilities. At a March 2000 IACP summit on criminal intelligence sharing, participants called for the development of a blueprint for the sharing of criminal intelligence among law enforcement agencies throughout the nation.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) responded to this recommendation, establishing the Global Intelligence Working Group (GIWG) to help promote and coordinate the efficient sharing of criminal intelligence among criminal justice agencies throughout the United States. The GIWG is a subcommittee of the Global Justice Information Sharing Advisory Committee (Global), which advises the attorney general in this important area.

Global includes representatives from the IACP and more than 30 other organizations spanning the criminal justice spectrum, from law enforcement, to the judiciary, to corrections, to information technology professionals. This group works to address the many policy, connectivity, and jurisdictional issues that hamper effective justice information sharing. In partnership with the IACP, Global has recorded several major successes in a short time period.

President Bush has made his personal commitment to this effort crystal clear. In a February 2003 speech, the president pledged to make information sharing at the local law enforcement level an important tool in the nation’s war on terror. “All across the country, we’ll be able to tie our terrorist information to local information banks so that the front line of defeating terror becomes activated and real, and those are the local enforcement officials,” he said. “We expect them to be a part of our efforts; we must give them the tools necessary so they do their job.”

The National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan (NCISP), developed by the GIWG and enthusiastically endorsed by Attorney General Ashcroft, provides recommendations to help agencies establish effective criminal intelligence sharing programs. NCISP sets forth standards and recommendations that will enable sharing of data, including sensitive but unclassified information. NCISP offers a framework for achieving OJP’s and IACP’s goal of strategic, intelligence-driven policing, as called for by the 2002 IACP summit.

Information sharing initiatives will benefit all aspects of criminal justice, not just homeland security. Today, judges still sentence offenders based on outdated or incomplete records. Police officers still wait too long to get basic information about a stopped vehicle or person. Criminal warrants are not immediately entered into statewide databases. These delays create serious officer and public safety issues.

Through Global, the Department of Justice is working to develop a standards-based approach for integrated justice information systems. Such systems will allow easy and secure sharing of information among the right people, at the right time, throughout the criminal justice system pipeline, from law enforcement to prosecutors, courts, and corrections.

A major component of this standards-based approach to information sharing is the Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM). By defining and standardizing data formats used throughout the justice system, GJXDM helps mitigate some of the issues associated with data sharing. Police departments, prosecutors, or court systems now can more easily afford the time and costs to implement information sharing with other justice systems or jurisdictions. Information about the NCISP, GJXDM, and other fruits of Global’s labors can be found at http://it.ojp.gov , and the OJP web site www.ojp.usdoj.gov .

To complement the significant efforts of Global and contribute specifically to the NCISP, the Department of Justice has launched an initiative in support of information sharing. The Law Enforcement Information Sharing Program (LEISP) is a department-wide plan to facilitate law enforcement collaboration across agency and jurisdictional boundaries. Its key components are enhancing access to law enforcement information for authorized users; improving information sharing in the department and among its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners; and coordinating information sharing projects.

Effective, efficient information will assist in routine crime reduction strategies. We all benefit when justice sharing is improved. One pilot program involved taking regional shared information and making significant information available to officers on the street. In one case, a warrants check was run on a subject in the field, and an outstanding felony warrant from years earlier was returned. The surprised subject said he had been stopped several times before, but the warrant had not been located. It is at times like these that sharing pays dividends for the officer and the public.

Improved information sharing also can serve as a basis for better coordination in large-scale emergencies. Major events may involve multiple jurisdictions and agencies. Having the ability to share information will make it easier to coordinate the response to emergencies, not only among justice agencies but also with other public safety agencies.

We want to harness America’s public safety resources in the fight against terrorism so that a local law enforcement official will know that a person stopped in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for running a red light has been indicted in Alabama for a series of rapes, or in New York for a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. The technology to achieve this goal is close at hand. Together with the IACP and other partners, the Department of Justice is striving to make this vision an achievable reality.


 

From The Police Chief, vol. 71, no. 10, October 2004. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.








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