3 Myths Of Police Data Integration, Debunked - InformationWeek

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Wai-Ming Yu & Jody Weis
Wai-Ming Yu & Jody Weis
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3 Myths Of Police Data Integration, Debunked

Databases that don't talk to each other are hurting law enforcement: If police can't connect the dots across state lines, bad guys can get away. Data integration is key.

A police investigator's chance of solving a crime is far higher within the first 42 to 78 hours after an incident. Officers need to quickly gather as much data as possible to map out the people, places, and activities surrounding a criminal activity or suspect.

On television, this looks like an investigator holding a mobile phone and tapping into a national database that spits out the name and location of the suspect. In reality, officers often struggle to navigate a patchwork system of data and information that is inaccessible across city, county, and state lines.

The United States has more than 17,000 state and local law enforcement agencies working with IT systems that don't communicate with each other. The constellation of clues and evidence related to criminal activity is often spread across disconnected databases and paper files in thousands of local, state, and federal agencies. In many cases, criminals who have been stopped by the police are freed when local law enforcement data searches are unable to access information that is stored outside their own systems. Most of these databases are not integrated, and therefore the information is not shared. The issue has resulted in police forces that are challenged to identify and arrest offenders and manage cases properly, because the information they need resides in another state or county.

[Would your company be legally liable for stolen customer data? Read Sensitive Data: What Constitutes 'Reasonable Protection'?]

What many have suggested seems logical: Integrate data between the agencies for unified access using so-called "multi-tenancy" information systems, which standardize information storage across agencies running on the same operating systems, applications, and hardware. The standardization across agencies makes sense, especially given 75% of policing processes required to track and respond to crimes are essentially the same.

However, each agency is protective of its data and has budget, privacy, and security concerns when asked to open it up to other investigators. These borders need to be respected and are often in place for very good reason, but there are solutions. What's preventing progress right now are a few myths about the dangers of sharing police systems and data.

Myth No. 1: It's expensive. Having one information system for multiple agencies rather than each agency buying, building, and maintaining its own system offers a powerful opportunity for savings. Multiple law enforcement agencies could band together to leverage their collective resources to procure, implement, and maintain solutions that support the collective. Agencies can reap savings from upfront consolidated procurement as well as down the road from reduced systems maintenance requirements.

Myth No. 2: Agencies will lose control of their data. A multi-tenant system would allow agencies to gather insights in a controlled environment. Different tenants could access common functionality with common data structures that are all managed by security and access controls that regulate who can see and update records. This allows each agency to maintain the ownership and integrity of its data.

Myth No. 3: It's not secure. A single records or case management system can serve multiple law enforcement agencies without jeopardizing the security and privacy of information. Within these systems, tenants maintain autonomy and security of their proprietary data and information. Each tenant can further customize access rights and dictate restrictions for their users.

When you look at it from a budgetary and public safety perspective, the costs of not embracing multi-tenancy information systems are far higher than the costs of implementation. Law enforcement agencies can't effectively enable a safe and secure nation without solutions that break through fragmented information-sharing and intelligence-gathering barriers. Multi-tenancy information systems can help technologically challenged agencies stop criminals from hiding their intentions and connect the dots when it comes to cross-jurisdictional cases and investigations as police get access to the information they need to keep citizens and cities safe.

InformationWeek's June Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of big data. Find out one CIO's take on what's driving big data, key points on platform considerations, why a recent White House report on the topic has earned praise and skepticism, and much more.

Co-author Jody Weis is senior manager of Accenture state, provincial, and local public safety.

Wai-Ming Yu leads Accenture's State, Provincial, and Local North American Public Safety business. Wai has spent the last 18 years serving in various leadership roles at Accenture, collaborating successfully with public sector clients on transformation projects, including work ... View Full Bio
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User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2014 | 5:32:58 PM
Re: One sucessful criminal justice data integration project
@anon: That is a rarity. We see some states pulling files off shelves to see into the matter, but only a small percentage accomplishes this task quickly. When the crime has been done, timely advancements matter.
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2014 | 5:32:21 PM
Nobody likes to do Paperwork
Most of the organizations have to deal with increasing lots of documentation of paper works onto an online database, and management of that database is increasingly becoming difficult to maintain because the crime rate is increasing with the technical advancements brought. We see thugs tracking celebrities to break into their homes when they?re not around.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/7/2014 | 11:35:46 AM
One sucessful criminal justice data integration project
Following a tragic, high-profile pair of murders by two felons who "fell through the system's cracks" one state successfully pulled its disparate databases together and increased analysis and access. http://www.sas.com/en_us/customers/nc-office-of-state-controller.html  Officials have since credited the unified systems with numerous instances that resulted in getting bad guys off the street.
User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2014 | 2:20:28 PM
Re: 3 Myths Of Police Data Integration, Debunked
This reminds me a lot of the trouble that Healthcare organizations are having with integrating EHR between one another and generally adapting to new technology and regulations in recent years. It reminds me of that in the sense that I'm surprised, and at the same time not surprised, just how far two seemingly perfect, even necessary, areas (law enforcement & healthcare) where modern technology could and should make a difference, are lagging behind. Stop to consider that the government is involved so closely with both these sectors, and maybe it suddenly becomes not all that surprising.

I think it's that much more impressive that our law enforcement (and again, healthcare professionals) do as much good work as they do with such limited budgets and technology - but maybe that's a topic for another time. As for the discussion at hand, I think it's fair to say that law enforcement needs a kick in the pants to get them to adopt the technology they should have adopted a decade ago. I'm sure there is plenty of red tape to get through, but this is something we can't afford to cut corners on. If it's more money they need, well... we shouldn't be surprised what happens when we constantly insist on lower taxes. We have a role in this as citizens.
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