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Back to Archives | Back to June 2005 Contents 

Ohio Local Law Enforcement Information Sharing Network:
Policy Issues in Data Exchange

By Gary Vest, Chief of Police, Powell, Ohio, and Chair, Ohio Local Law Enforcement Information Sharing Network







aw enforcement officials sometimes complain that they get information from the media before they receive it through official channels. The Columbus, Ohio, local media were the first to link together a series of highway shootings after the death of Gail Knisley, a passenger in a car traveling on Interstate 270. On November 26, 2003, three days after Mrs. Knisley's death, the Columbus Dispatch wrote: "The reports of vehicles hit by gunfire were filed by different law enforcement agencies and had not been coordinated until yesterday, (Franklin County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Steve) Martin said. Five were investigated by the sheriff's office, two by Columbus police, and one by the State Highway Patrol. All have occurred since October 11, except for one in May. No one else has been injured."1

A regional task force led by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office investigated multiple shootings that occurred before and after Mrs. Knisley's death. Eventually, police arrested suspect Charles A. McCoy, 28, on Wednesday, March 17, 2004, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prosecutors have charged him with Mrs. Knisley's death and multiple other shootings on or near Interstate 270. Ohio's highway shootings came just one year after the Washington, D.C., area sniper shootings. Although seldom as violent as these cases are, multijurisdictional incidents occur regularly across the United States.

The need for multiagency information sharing is clear. Unfortunately, two key issues complicate the ability for agencies to share information. First, a significant number of local law enforcement agencies still submit and maintain records on paper, rather than using an electronic format. Second, the agencies that have an electronic record management system (RMS) generally cannot share data unless they use the same RMS vendor, and even then sharing may not be possible. For more than 25 years, various parts of the country have been sharing information regionally and at times with multiple disciplines through the use of third-party, or middle-ware, products. Until recently, however, the large-scale ability to share information among disparate RMS vendors has been limited.

Ohio's 900 law enforcement agencies are uniting in an unprecedented partnership with up to 70 disparate RMS vendor systems to create a statewide local law enforcement information-sharing network. The effort to create the Ohio Local Law Enforcement Information Sharing Network (OLLEISN), a part of the state's Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP), is being led by the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP). OLLEISN is expected to receive LETPP grant funding through Ohio Homeland Security over several years to complete the initial phases of the network.

This approach to funding OLLEISN was the result of the creative leadership of Kenneth Morckel, director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety. As a former colonel of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Morckel understood the needs of law enforcement, the impact that major statewide programs could have on improving law enforcement in lieu of supplying small grants to all agencies that may or may not have a lasting impact, and the value of developing the statewide programs from the customer's perspective through the active leadership of their professional organizations.

OLLEISN's information-sharing and integration planning process method was adopted in part from the 11-step International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Information Integration Planning Model.2

Step 1: Bringing Key Stakeholders Together
OLLEISN is a collaborative effort of a statewide steering committee with representatives from Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro's office, the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association, the Office of Criminal Justice Services, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the OACP, a regional information-sharing network, and the MARCS statewide radio interoperability project.

In addition, OLLEISN has developed a working partnership with Ohio's private and public RMS software providers. The vendors were given the opportunity at the very beginning to meet with OLLEISN leadership to understand the need and vision for the network and to provide feedback from an industry perspective about the challenges to overcome and the most effective practices to follow.

Step 2: Developing a Governance Structure
The OLLEISN Steering Committee, as representatives of the key stakeholders, provides the grassroots ownership and direction while the OACP staff provides grant administration and project management.

Step 3: Developing the Decision-Making Process
The OLLEISN steering committee provides overall direction for the project. The membership of the steering committee consists of police chiefs representing the six OACP districts and representatives from the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Ohio Attorney General's Office, the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services, the Ohio Mobile Area Radio Communication System (MARCS), and a representative from an existing regional information sharing system. With input from a policy subcommittee, the steering committee approves all policies regarding access to OLLEISN; auditing of the system's use; data ownership, submission, retention, dissemination and security rules; and the participation agreement that each participating agency is required to sign.

Step 4: Developing Goals
Operational and strategic goals are established to achieve the vision and mission statements of OLLEISN.

OLLEISN Vision Statement: To protect the homeland from acts of terrorism, and Ohio citizens from acts of crime, by creating a network and culture of information sharing among local law enforcement agencies.

OLLEISN Mission Statement: To create a voluntary Ohio local law enforcement information-sharing network, based on model policies and established technical and security standards, to assist officers and investigators to prevent and respond to acts of terrorism and crime.

The steering committee is committed to providing the required resources to help each of Ohio's local law enforcement agency's that desire to participate to be able to do so.

Step 5: Determining the Project's Scope
OLLEISN is focused on sharing information among all local Ohio law enforcement agencies, using technical standards that will eventually allow for integration with other disciplines and agencies in the law enforcement enterprise. RMS data was selected as the baseline for sharing, with the understanding that the network must be based on standards that allow for voluntary participation and multiple RMS vendors.

Step 6: Completing the Needs Assessment
The Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services recently completed surveys of local law enforcement agencies and their methods for managing local records. Both surveys indicated that approximately 60 percent of the responding agencies utilize an electronic RMS programs provided by upwards of seventy different software vendors. A significant number of agencies, approximately 40 percent, currently have no electronic RMS program.

Step 7: Creating the Information System
The OLLEISN project staff, working in partnership with the information technology staff of the Ohio Attorney General's Office, and under the guidance of the OLLEISN Steering Committee, developed system requirements and documentation to guide both the tactical and strategic direction of the project. Several consultants, including a team from the Integrated Justice Information Systems Industry Working Group (IJIS) (www.ijis.org), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, were used to provide assurances that proper plans and policies were in place.

A key part of the project was to gain the support and participation of the RMS vendors in the state. A strategic planning session was held early on to share the OLLEISN vision and mission with vendors, and to solicit their input and suggestions. This proved to be a very valuable session and led nearly all of the vendors in attendance to agree to participate. Other strategic planning sessions designed for law enforcement executives were held in diverse areas of the state to share the project's goals and to solicit ideas and suggestions for it.

The OLLEISN data model is based on the Global Justice XML Data model. After considering several different information-sharing methods, planners decided to create a statewide data repository, where local law enforcement agencies would send copies of the data to be shared with other agencies in the state. The state attorney general's Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG) Web portal was selected as the location of the repository. This provided a secure location for the data, and placed OLLEISN data in a data center designed to provide a wide variety of information to Ohio law enforcement.

To get local information to the OLLEISN repository required RMS vendors to create an OLLEISN interface and a method to extract and send the information. OLLEISN contracted directly with vendors to create and support these interfaces on behalf of their Ohio customers. Once a vendor demonstrates the ability to extract agency data and send it to the OLLEISN database in proper form, they are certified and we begin the process of connecting their customers to the repository. Currently, searching the OLLEISN database requires the use of a Web browser. Working with the vendors, this will be expanded to allow inquires to be submitted directly through the agency RMS system.

In addition to working with the agencies that already have an RMS vendor, OLLEISN also is working to provide the resources necessary for agencies without an electronic records system to acquire one and to be able to participate in OLLEISN. Although participation in OLLEISN is voluntary, an agency must give to receive. The project is committed to providing sufficient resources for all agencies wishing to participate to be able to do so.

Step 8: Assess Costs and Securing Funding
The initial costs of OLLEISN are being met through an LETPP grant from the Ohio Office of Homeland Security. Additional funding sources are continually being evaluated. Once established, the system will be supported by the state of Ohio through the office of the attorney general.

Step 9: Implementing the System
In March 2005, 20 Ohio agencies connected to OLLEISN. The OLLEISN Steering Committee anticipates connecting more than 400 Ohio law enforcement agencies by December 2005. Lists of participating agencies and certified vendors are regularly updated at (www.oacp.org/infoshare.html). Project updates, technical information, and policies are also available at the site.

Step 10: Informing and Educating the Community
Communication of the project goals and accomplishments is an ongoing process. In addition to the strategic planning sessions held with local law enforcement executives early in the project, additional regional meetings are held, an OLLEISN Web site has been created, and regular mailings are sent to all law enforcement leaders in the state. Regional media briefings are held periodically to inform the public of local agencies that are participating.

Step 11: Evaluating and Maintaining the System
OLLEISN is designed to allow local agencies to retain their existing RMS vendor relationship or choose a vendor that is OLLEISN certified. The local agency RMS vendor remains the agency point of contact. The initial data sharing elements will be limited, but will be increased in response to user feedback and the growth in agencies using the system. Over time, the leadership role of OACP in developing and administering OLLEISN will be transferred to the Ohio Attorney General's Office. It will be the attorney general's office, with the advice and leadership of the steering committee that will assume responsibility for the ongoing operation and support of OLLEISN.

There is a wealth of information and assistance available to those seeking to build an integrated criminal justice network. Although OLLEISN is designed to allow local law enforcement agencies in Ohio to share information, it is anticipated that the network will eventually connect with other criminal justice disciplines and projects in other states and at the federal level.

A statewide integration project should not be a start-from-scratch initiative and should not be approached in a vacuum. Virtually every state has some agencies experienced in information sharing. The lessons learned from these agencies are very helpful to a statewide effort.

There is an expectation that all of law enforcement will work together to protect Ohio from foreign or domestic crime. It is sometimes difficult for large organizations or networks to appreciate the value of a single field contact by a lone officer in small town. On more than one occasion, a police officer of a small department has made a big difference. For five years, at a cost of millions, federal and state authorities searched for alleged abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph. He was eventually captured by Officer Jeffrey Postell, a 21-year-old police officer from the small town of Murphy, North Carolina. A completely integrated law enforcement information system must include all agencies regardless of size. The individual agency solutions may vary from agency to agency, but by using a standards-based plan all agencies should have the ability to connect. ■

1 Bruce Cadwellader and Dean Narciso, "Woman Shot to Death on I-270," Columbus Dispatch (November 26, 2003).
2 IACP, Toward Improved Criminal Justice Information Sharing: An Information Integration Planning Model, April 2000.


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From The Police Chief, vol. 72, no. 6, June 2005. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.








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