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Back to Archives | Back to June 2006 Contents 

Information Technology Standards: Why They Are Important to Public Safety

By Neil Kurlander, Chief of Police (Retired), Maryland Heights, Missouri, and Vice President, Public Sector Solutions, Asynchrony Solutions Inc., Saint Louis, Missouri, and Heather Ruzbasan, Project Manager, Law Enforcement Information Technology Standards Council, IACP, Alexandria, Virginia

ew technology standards are being developed that will dramatically improve the way information is shared across the public safety spectrum. The importance of these efforts cannot be overstated. To illustrate the importance of sharing information in public safety, consider the following scenario: A tanker truck carrying hazardous materials overturns on a bridge that spans a river between two jurisdictions. The truck's container ruptures and the contents begin leaking into the river below. Vapors from the container create a plume of potentially toxic particles that slowly spread downwind toward nearby businesses and residences. The contaminated water flows downstream toward another community's water intake system.

Many different government and private sector agencies would need information about this incident to fulfill their responsibilities. In addition to first responders, government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels with responsibilities related to this type of event would need to receive information about the incident so that they could muster their resources as part of the response and recovery effort. Likewise, private-sector entities such as the water company and hazardous materials response companies would need to be informed so that they could take action to protect the water supply. Elected officials and the media would be seeking up-to-the minute information about the incident to protect and inform the public of the possible danger.

The number of agencies affected grows quickly if the roadway is a major interstate in an urban setting, if the jurisdictions are in two adjoining states, or if the crash results in casualties.

Today, such a scenario could easily overwhelm the capabilities of many agencies to communicate and coordinate the response to this event. Each public safety, private sector, and regulatory agency responsible to take action related to the previously described event relies upon accurate and timely information about what is happening at the scene and adjacent areas. In order for the responding agencies to deploy the correct personnel and resources, information about the incident must be quickly and correctly disseminated. Whether the event is a hazardous materials incident as depicted above, a hurricane, or a terrorist attack, having the correct information instantaneously is critical for responding agencies.

The Concept: Real-Time Information
Conceptually, the solution to exchanging real-time information to multiple agencies about what is happening at an incident scene is simple. Information related to the incident would be entered into one of the responding agencies' computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system and then simultaneously relayed by electronic messaging to all of the other responding and public safety agencies that need to know what is transpiring at the scene. Such a system would include an electronic connection between dispatch centers so that the availability of additional resources would be displayed and the deployment of units captured simultaneously by all. Information from multiple agencies' CAD systems would be sent electronically to emergency operations centers (EOC) for command and control of the incident. Homeland security agencies would be kept informed of the scope of the incident and on-going activities.

New technology standards are currently being developed that will dramatically effect the way information is shared.

GJXDM, the Global Justice XML Data Model
As the result of a series of focus groups and studies initiated by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs (OJP)in the late 1990s, the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (Global) was created. Serving as a federal advisory committee, the Global Advisory Committee (GAC) was chartered in 2002 to advise the U.S. attorney general on justice information sharing and integration initiatives. GAC members represent various organizations that have a mission to promote public safety and justice.

The Law Enforcement Information Technology Standards Council (LEITSC) actively supports Global initiatives. Representatives and advisors from LEITSC are also members of the GJXDM Training and Technical Assistance Committee (GTTAC), the Global Infrastructure and Standards Working Group (GISWG), and the XML Structured Task Force (XSTF). The aforementioned committees and working groups fall under the GAC umbrella.

GJXDM has been endorsed throughout the justice community and is one component of the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM). Additional information about the Global Initiative can be found at (

Because of the importance of sharing of electronic information throughout the justice community, a large number of initiatives are under way to create electronic data transfers that are compliant with the Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM).

CAD and RMS Functional Standards
LEITSC developed and released the functional standards for computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems and record management systems (RMS) to help law enforcement agencies design and select these technologies. These functional standards are beneficial to law enforcement agencies because they outline and depict the minimum amount of functionality that a new law enforcement CAD or RMS should contain. They are designed to be used as a starting point to build a fully functional CAD or RMS that is based on open standards in order to efficiently interface and share information with other systems both internally and externally.

The CAD and RMS functional standards should serve as a guide and be tailored to fit the specific needs of each agency or group of agencies looking to upgrade or purchase a new dispatch or records management system. They are not intended to be substituted for a request for proposal (RFP), but they can be used to supplement an RFP. The functional standards are designed to be generic in nature and do not favor one particular system or approach over another; they address the functional level, meaning that they define what is to be accomplished rather than how it should be accomplished.

LEITSC brings together members from four of the nation's leading law enforcement associations: the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the Police Executive Research Forum. The mission of LEITSC is to foster the growth of strategic planning and implementation of integrated justice systems through the development and implementation of information technology standards. The council actively addresses law enforcement information technology standards issues
LEITSC offers technical assistance to any law enforcement or public safety agency that uses the CAD or RMS functional standards. For more information and to download the documents, visit the LEITSC Web site at (

Technical Standards
Functional standards are designed to assist law enforcement agencies by providing information about the capabilities of CAD systems and RMS, but technical standards are needed to promote interoperability. Simply put, functional standards describe CAD and RMS capabilities while technical standards establish the requirements for the electronic sharing of information between different CAD and RMS applications.

LEITSC, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO) and the Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute (IJIS) are participating in a collaborative effort to create new information exchange package documentations (IEPDs) for alarm systems, CAD systems, and RMS. Developing IEPDs for these systems is an important component of the information sharing process between these systems. The intent of each IEPD is to provide a reference model of consistently structured and reusable pieces of information to be used by the law enforcement community for its internal use and for information exchange with other justice partners.

APCO International is the world's oldest and largest not-for-profit professional organization dedicated to the enhancement of public safety communications. With more than 16,000 members around the world, APCO International exists to serve the people who manage, operate, maintain, and supply the communications systems used by public safety.

The IJIS Institute is an inclusive organization composed of more than 150 companies that provide services or products to the justice community. IJIS members apply the expertise of industry to assist the justice and public safety community in the innovative and effective use of technologies to better share information in a way that benefits industry, the public sector, and society as a whole.

To facilitate the development of technical standards, IJIS formed the Public Safety Technical Standards Committee (IPSTSC)in July 2005. IPSTSC then created three working teams and a steering committee to coordinate the process of creating the technical standards. The IEPD development tasks are divided between the alerts working team, CAD working team, and RMS working team. Each of the working teams is multidisciplinary, with members representing public safety, law enforcement, and industry. The exchange priorities were vetted and provided by LEITSC and APCO. The new IEPDs for alerts, CAD, and RMS are scheduled to be completed by the third quarter of 2006. Additional information about IJIS and may be obtained at

The development of IEPD technical standards are a necessary component of the process for sharing information electronically. The process includes four elements; standards for content, services, policies, and registries. When these components are combined, the establishment of an enterprise-wide justice information sharing system becomes technically viable.

Effect on Public Safety
How will new technology standards affect public safety? The new technology standards will benefit public safety agencies by providing a cost-effective and consistent approach for sharing information across jurisdictions as well as between public and private sector organizations. In the future, information about incidents, persons, places, property, and other data in one agency's CAD system or RMS will be electronically accessible from other agencies' systems regardless of vendor, application, or platform. Of course, privacy and security policies will need to be established by governance entities to protect individuals and data.

The work that LEITSC,APCO, IJIS, GAC, and other groups are undertaking today to develop standards will make it possible in the future for public safety and other responding agencies to use technology to rapidly disseminate and share information to all parties that are tasked with protecting the public.   

For more information on this training program or on CBL, go to or (■



From The Police Chief, vol. 73, no. 6, June 2006. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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