Although the nation has made strides in public safety and justice information sharing, many obstacles and projects remain – and the Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Institute works to merge industry and government to address those issues and develop standards.
At the Winter Industry Briefing held Jan. 6-7 in Washington, D.C., Paul Wormeli, IJIS Institute director emeritus, made it clear that technology touches every aspect of life, and that will only continue to increase as younger generations integrate it even further into their everyday lives. He also talked about the importance of information sharing. The conference provides a means for government to talk with the private sector — to coordinate in the development of systems that will aid law enforcement and protect national security.
Main topics discussed during the Industry Briefing included: gang information sharing, fusion centers, the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, prescription drug monitoring systems and public safety interoperability.
Information Sharing Systems Go Live
While the conference focused on systems that are needed, it also brought to light initiatives that are already under way and how they will benefit law enforcement and homeland security.
Launched in March 2010, the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative seeks to improve homeland security by allowing government agencies at all levels to share information that’s possibly terrorism related. The initiative will connect to fusion centers, and currently 32 of the nation’s 72 designated fusion centers are on board with the project. Talks are ongoing with 25 additional sites and the initiative is already operational in cities including Boston and Chicago.
Progress has been made, as well, toward creating a national gang information sharing program. As gangs and their activities are reaching into the suburbs and smaller communities, which may have just a few law enforcement officers, information sharing is key to keeping officials up-to-date and ensuring that everyone has accurate information.
There are multiple government systems that track gang-related information — including GangNET, TXGANG and MassGangs — and the goal is to create one system that shares relevant information with all stakeholders. Through work with the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council, and the Gang Intelligence Strategy Committee within the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative, a specification for gang data exchange is scheduled to be delivered Jan. 30 and then will be tested in pilot projects. The information exchange package documentation is intended to support gang information sharing between and across law enforcement and justice systems at all levels.
The economic climate has forced agencies and governments at all levels to cut back and rethink their use of technology, and Wormeli named IT trends that apply to both government and industry, including:
- Governments will capitalize on collaboration and sharing. He referenced a project in California in which 38 counties came together to purchase an HR system. This is also good for industry because it reduces system fragmentation, Wormeli added.
- The federal government will increase its focus on information sharing, but it will be tied to social outcomes. “You need to be able to tell your mother why this is a good tax expenditure,” Wormeli said.
- Budget cuts will make it harder for governments to justify system purchases to employees. He said there has been a 10 percent reduction in the public safety and court system work force, and it may be difficult for employees to watch their co-workers get laid off while the government spends money on a new system.
- Public awareness of technology is increasing, so citizens need to be educated about a system’s or technology’s purpose.
Wormeli referenced the 18-month strategy to improve government efficiency, which was unveiled by federal CIO Vivek Kundra in December 2010. The 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management could prove to be the future of state and local government IT. “Those best practices are going to be flowing down to state and local government as they’re proven at the federal level,” Wormeli said.