ow can law enforcement embrace the collaborative process to improve intelligence sharing and ultimately increase the ability to detect, prevent, and solve crimes? By implementing and following the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan (NCISP). The NCISP is regarded as the blueprint for law enforcement administrators to follow when enhancing or building an intelligence function.1 The plan contains over 25 recommendations that were vetted by law enforcement officials and experts from local, state, tribal, and federal agencies. The plan embraces intelligence-led policing, community policing, and collaboration. The recent proliferation of fusion centers is viewed as a possible conduit for implementing portions of the plan, while maximizing resources, streamlining operations, and improving law enforcement's ability to fight crime and terrorism.
Since this concept is relatively new, there are many different definitions of fusion centers, and no specific guidance or information has been available to assist law enforcement agencies in establishing fusion centers. It is anticipated, however, that among other critical functions, fusion centers will provide a conduit for integrating, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence information.
As part of the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (Global),2 the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council (CICC), in support of the efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs to develop fusion center standards, coordinated the creation of the Fusion Center Intelligence Standards Focus Group, which is responsible for developing minimum standards specifically for the law enforcement intelligence component of fusion centers. Although the focus group members recognize the need to integrate public safety and private partners, the first step of this initiative is to focus on law enforcement intelligence only. In addition to minimum standards, the focus group was tasked with developing model policies, procedures, and guidelines to assist agencies in developing the intelligence component of their fusion center.
The Fusion Center Intelligence Standards Focus Group initially met in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 24 and 25, 2004. The focus group consists of representatives from a variety of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies from across the country. The focus group participants have diverse experience and expertise; many members have been involved with developing fusion centers in their regions.
One impetus for fusion center development is the need to create a generation of law enforcement officers who understand how information becomes intelligence and the importance of intelligence sharing and collaboration. Fusion centers embody the core of collaboration. One goal of collaboration is to increase capacity, communication, and continuity of service, while eliminating the duplication of services. As demands increase and resources decrease, collaboration becomes an effective tool to maximize resources and build trusted relationships.3 It is anticipated that fusion centers will become the nerve centers for collaborating efforts among investigative support, intelligence information sharing, public safety, and the private sector. The intelligence component of fusion centers is the foundation for successful data integration and exchange.
One of the first goals of the focus group was to develop guiding principles. These principles summarize the preliminary and overarching issues discussed by the focus group. They are provided as a guide for law enforcement agencies to use when establishing and operating intelligence functions within Fusion Centers. The guiding principles include the following:
The NCISP addresses a wide spectrum of intelligence issues and concerns. It provides model standards and policies and is the blueprint for establishing or enhancing intelligence functions.
Mission statements provide focus and meaning for those participating in the fusion center. Mission statements should be clear and concise and should convey the purpose, priority, and role of the center.
All participating agencies should have a voice in the establishment and operation of the fusion center and be adequately represented in the governance structure.
Using a memorandum of understanding or other agreement defines the roles and responsibilities of the participating agencies.
Fusion centers embody the concept of collaboration. Collaboration allows agencies to maximize available resources and work jointly toward a common goal.
Effective communications minimize the barriers that impede information sharing. Center personnel should strive to ensure that information, whether electronic, verbal, or written, is accurate, complete, timely, and relevant.
Policies and procedures outline the roles and responsibilities of the center. Policies and procedures ensure consistency, define accountability, reduce liability, and professionalize the overall operation.
Security pertains to information, intelligence, documents, databases, facility, personnel, and dissemination. Centers should develop, publish, and adhere to a security policy and ensure proper safeguards are in place at all times.
People are the core of a successful fusion center. Ensuring a diverse workforce, with specialized knowledge and expertise, will create a trusted environment and will result in higher productivity and performance.
Centers should use resources already available, as opposed to creating new systems or databases. Centers should plan for future connectivity and adhere to standards. Participating agencies should use the latest version of the Global Justice Extensible Markup Language (XML) Data Dictionary when connecting databases or other resources to communication networks.
Customers of the center expect timely and relevant intelligence services and products as well as investigative and tactical support. Centers should provide a variety of services and institute an evaluation process to ensure demands are met satisfactorily.
The focus group is in the process of drafting a final report that will expand these guiding principles and provide specific information on the minimum standards. For each standard, the report will provide justification for the standard; discuss issues and obstacles impacting implementation and compliance; offer recommendations and suggestions; provide elements or examples to assist when applying standards; and include model policies, procedures, and templates.
It is anticipated that the focus group's report will be finalized early in 2005. The focus group is also in the process of developing a resource CD that will contain examples and materials to further assist law enforcement in establishing fusion centers. The report and supporting materials are not meant to be all-inclusive; instead, the recommendations contained in the report are the foundation for a much larger and complex enterprise.
In addition to the efforts by the Fusion Center Intelligence Standards Focus Group, it is important to note that the Homeland Security Advisory Council's Prevention and Information Sharing Working Group is developing guidelines to assist local and state agencies in the collection, analysis, and dissemination of terrorism-related intelligence information. Members of the CICC continue to collaborate with the working group to define roles, responsibilities, and requirements of local and state government entities.
The ultimate goal is to provide a mechanism through which law enforcement partners can come together with a common purpose and improve the ability to safeguard our homeland and prevent criminal activity. As threats against our nation intensify, the ability to quickly exchange relevant information and intelligence will become increasingly critical. Since September 11, 2001, significant progress has been made in both breaking down barriers and improving information exchange. Through the use of fusion centers and the progress made through the Fusion Center Intelligence Standards Focus Group and the Prevention and Information Sharing Working Group, law enforcement will have the tools to further accomplish these goals.
For more information regarding this initiative, contact the Fusion Center Support Team at 850-385-0600, extension 324. ■
1 To view the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan, visit (http://it.ojp.gov/documents/National_Criminal_Intelligence_Sharing_Plan.pdf.)
2 For more information regarding the Global Initiative, visit (www.it.ojp.gov/global).
3 C. R. Pete Petersen, "Coming Together: Building Community Collaboration and Consensus," Web site, March 4, 2003, (www.communitycollaboration.net/), January 24, 2005.