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Back to Archives | Back to August 2012 Contents 

Technology Talk

Justice Information Sharing: The Tools Are Now Available

By David J. Roberts, Senior Program Manager, IACP Technology Center


nformation is the lifeblood of effective justice and public safety. The integration of justice, public safety, intelligence, and other governmental information transcends the day-to-day operational needs and priorities of justice agencies and has become, particularly in light of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, a national and international security imperative. A variety of emergency situations in recent years have demonstrated the tragic consequences that often result from the inability of agencies to effectively share timely and accurate information. Terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and large-scale organized criminal incidents too often have served as case studies that reveal weaknesses in our information sharing capabilities.

Enterprise-wide information sharing is needed to prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from terrorist incidents. Information sharing capabilities also are needed to address natural disasters, provide effective incident response and management, and support the critical day-to-day operations of justice and public safety officials at all levels and across all branches of government. Regardless of whether the scenario is a police officer conducting a routine traffic stop, a judge setting bail in a criminal proceeding, a maritime official screening cargo arriving at an international port, or a state official determining the suitability of a person seeking approval to become a day care provider, government agencies and in some cases private industry must be able to access and share accurate and complete information for efficient and informed decision making.

Over the past decade, governmental officials in many states and local jurisdictions have built increasingly robust information sharing capabilities. These capabilities are rapidly maturing to meet the evolving needs of justice and public safety practitioners, as well as the mounting demands by the public for greater information sharing and access, accelerating growth in noncriminal justice licensing and employment background investigations, and escalating development of homeland security, intelligence, and counterterrorism information sharing.

Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative

Today many of the tools needed to build effective justice information sharing have been developed, tested, and are freely available, thanks to the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (Global), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.1 Global was created in 1998 under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as an Advisory Committee to the U.S. Attorney General.2 Hundreds of leaders and practitioners of local, state, tribal, and federal agencies, together with representatives of leading justice and public safety organizations and subject matter experts, have worked tirelessly to build standards and tools that support and enable enterprise-wide justice information sharing.

Since its creation, Global and its working groups have functioned to promote standards-based information sharing and interoperability throughout the justice and public safety enterprise. Working groups include the following:

  • Global Infrastructure/Standards Working Group
  • Global Privacy and Information Quality Working Group
  • Global Security Working Group
  • Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council/Global Intelligence Working Group

Global Information Sharing Toolkit

Global has created the Global Information Sharing Toolkit to assist developers in building standards-based enterprise-wide information sharing.3 The toolkit includes online searching capabilities and access to a host of standards, policies, guidelines, and best practices.

The Global Federated Identity and Privilege Management (GFIPM) framework provides the justice and public safety community with a standards-based approach for implementing federated identity. The GFIPM framework supports the following three major interoperability areas of security in the federation:

  • Identification/Authentication—Who are the end users and how did they authenticate?
  • Privilege Management—What certifications, clearances, job functions, local privileges, and organizational affiliations are associated with the end user that can serve as the basis for authorization decisions?
  • Audit—What information is needed or required for the purposes of auditing systems, systems access and use, and legal compliance of data practices?4

The Global Information Sharing Toolkit also provides a broad range of reports, policies, guidelines, tools, and step-by-step guides addressing privacy and information quality, the development and operation of fusion centers, building intelligence capabilities, suspicious activity reporting, intelligence-led policing, and a host of related topics.

The National Information Exchange Model

The National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) provides a forum for the development of XML standards for information sharing.5 Initiated in 2005 as a joint effort of the Chief Information Officers of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security and building on Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM) standards developed through Global, NIEM is designed to facilitate the creation of automated enterprise-wide information exchanges that can be uniformly developed, centrally maintained, quickly identified and discovered, and efficiently reused. The result is more efficient and expansive information sharing among agencies and jurisdictions, more cost-effective development and deployment of information systems, improved operations, better quality decision making, and enhanced public safety and homeland security. NIEM has matured over the past seven years and now includes 14 domains, including Biometrics; Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear; Children, Youth, and Family Services; Cyber; Emergency Management; Health; Human Services; Immigration; Infrastructure Protection; Intelligence; International Trade; Justice; Maritime; and Screening.

The Global Reference Architecture

The Global Reference Architecture (GRA) (previously known as the Justice Reference Architecture) is designed to “enhance justice and public safety through a service-oriented approach to information sharing. We accomplish this mission by providing a reference architecture for identifying, defining, implementing, and governing services.”6 Global encouraged adoption of service-oriented architecture for justice information sharing in 2004, and the GRA is the reference architecture for justice and public safety information sharing. It incorporates and reuses subsets of other standards developed by Global and supports other national programs, such as the National Law Enforcement Data Exchange (N-DEx) program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.7


The common objectives and universal principles of justice and public safety information sharing are well established. Technological advances, diminishing costs, and new computing paradigms have vastly expanded the capacity of modern computers and information systems.8 Jurisdictions throughout the nation and around the world are actively engaged in building enterprise-wide information sharing capabilities. Thanks to the enduring leadership and the substantive contributions of countless justice and public safety practitioners, industry partners, and subject matter experts, the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative and its affiliates have created and are delivering the tools and guidance needed to achieve real information sharing. ♦

1Additional information about Global is available at In addition, see Justice Information Sharing: A 2010-2012 Strategic Action Plan (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, 2010), (accessed July 10, 2012).
2Federal Advisory Committee Act, Pub. L. 92-463, 1, 86 Stat. 770 (1972).
3Global Information Sharing Toolkit, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, (accessed July 10, 2012).
4“Global Federated Identity and Privilege Management,” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, (accessed July 10, 2012).
5The National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) website, (accessed July 10, 2012).
6Global Reference Architecture, mission statement, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, (accessed July 10, 2012).
7For more information regarding the N-DEx program, see James T. Bryan, “N-DEx Developments Leverage Technology to Deliver Critical Investigative Information to the Criminal Justice Community,” Technology Talk, The Police Chief 79 (February 2012): 60–61.
8Gordon Moore observed in 1965 that the number of components in integrated circuits doubled every year from 1958 to 1965 and predicted that it would continue for at least the next 10 years. Gordon E. Moore, “Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits,” Electronics, 38, No. 8 (April 19, 1965), (accessed June 4, 2012). Processing speed and storage capacity of computers have continued to advance, doubling every 12–18 months, which has also significantly reduced data storage costs. New computing paradigms, such as cloud computing, offer mass storage at commodity pricing. “Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” Peter Mell and Timothy Grance, The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing, (Gaithersburg, Md.: National Institute of Standards and Technology, September 2011), 2, (accessed June 4, 2012).

Please cite as:

David J. Roberts, "Justice Information Sharing: The Tools Are Now Available," Technology Talk, The Police Chief 79 (August 2012): 92&150;94.

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From The Police Chief, vol. LXXIX, no. 8, August 2012. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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