10 Public-Safety Data Sharing Tips
Wednesday, October 06, 2010 | Comments
Building an information-sharing coalition involves more than selecting a technology platform. “Criminals and criminal enterprises are like all other human endeavors — reliant upon interactions and relationships,” said John Douglass, chief of police for the Overland Park (Kan.) Police Department. Douglass was an instrumental leader in creating a data mining and sharing program for anti-criminal activity in the Kansas City metro area. Clearly defining criminal relationships requires extensive data analysis capability. “Data mining capabilities have made database exchanges a viable reality,” Douglass said. “The more pieces of the puzzle we have, the more clear the picture becomes.”
Information sharing provides immediate access for investigative use, tactical and strategic use, and mobile field deployment, according to Tim Riley, a former chief information officer for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and current senior vice president of business development for i2, a provider of intelligence and investigation management software for law enforcement. Riley was responsible for all the information technology for LAPD’s 13,500 employees. He was also involved in organizing a large-scale information sharing initiative across dozens of Los Angeles area agencies.
LAPD set up three separate data warehouses (nodes) that were interconnected to share information among agencies. The nodes are at the LAPD, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Regional Terrorism Information and Integration System (RTIIS). “And now the Los Angeles area has the foundation to share information with more external agencies including federal agencies,” Riley said.
One example of how accessing information from other agencies can help solve a crime involved an ATM serial robbery case, Riley said. LAPD was able to identify and ultimately arrest the culprits using the shared database and a partial license plate, he said.
Riley shared five tips on information sharing based on his experiences with the LAPD:
1. Delimit Scope. Clearly set boundaries and limits for the project. List specific data sources and elements to be used. For example, decide whether you want to be able to search names or names plus past history. Set strategic goals and objectives by outlining specific goals you wish to achieve. Identify the key stakeholders and formally discuss project details, such as the overall vision, project timeline and resources needed. Make sure to establish a protocol for updating project status as well.
2. Decide on Governance. It’s important to create guidelines for a joint powers agreement (JPA) or Memorandum of Agreement to decide who will own and manage the information being shared. Standards should also be created regarding training requirements, regulating outside agency access and other areas.
3. Determine Funding. There are several ways to gain funding, whether from a government grant, police foundation, or corporate or community donations.
4. Describe Solution. Work with vendors and technical staff to determine which hardware (size, type), software (operating system), network parameters, accessibility and security to use. Also decide on a standardization of data elements and whether the data will be compatible with other databases, such a federal information databases.
5. Define Sustainability. Make plans for funding the system costs once the warranty runs out and for future features.
Chriss Knisley, assistant vice president for i2’s Coplink product line, provided five additional tips from a vendor’s perspective:
6. Compare Apples to Apples. Understand your business goals and the functionality a system uses to meet them. For example, decide on the detail level of the types of information you want to share and whether a user can search for complex relationships.
7. Define Metrics for Success. Define the problem you’re trying to solve and quantify it.
8. Leave Enough Time. Don’t run up against grant deadlines to fund your projects. It takes time to write the system requirements, and leave time to answer questions from vendors regarding those requirements.
9. Designate a Project Manager. Every project needs an internal project manager to act as the point person.
10. Don’t Forget the Training. If you don’t train personnel to use the system, then you can’t get the full benefit of the system. Also plan for ongoing training and new-hire training in the future. 
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