Nebraska Fusion Center Implementing New Search Tool

Information portal provides federated search and automated audit capabilities, allowing law enforcement agencies to search disparate databases simultaneously.

by / November 18, 2010
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Following 9/11 and the gaps in information sharing those attacks exposed, the federal government began encouraging the development of fusion centers within each of the states as well as major cities to facilitate connecting pieces of information that help identify potential threats.

With the access to this new information came the need to develop a simple way to retrieve it. In June 2009, the Nebraska Information and Analysis Center (NIAC) issued an RFP for a solution to help it search disparate databases across the state with a single query. It awarded a contract to Memex at a cost of just under $3 million for implementation of its Patriarch platform in May. The implementation is ongoing.

“Within the state of Nebraska, what we’re doing is we’re defining agencies that are willing to share information with us,” said Kevin Knorr, captain of the NIAC, “and then we go out and set up a mirrored server. We put it in their facility, a mirrored server that basically extracts that information, which they will allow or will share with us or with the fusion center. And then that information is indexed through the Memex server [and] provided as a response to a query.”

Law enforcement officials throughout Nebraska — including the Omaha Police Department, Lincoln Police Department and Nebraska State Patrol — plan to use the Memex Patriarch platform to connect to 17 different law enforcement data sources including records management systems, computer-aided dispatch systems, sex offender registries, mug shot integration databases and the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, the company said in a press release.

One of the major initiatives the NIAC is involved in is the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative that has given rise to the “See Something, Say Something,” campaign widely promoted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The platform provides the bridge between law enforcement officers and private-sector partners who see something suspicious and the fusion center analysts who vet and store the data, or pass it along as appropriate.

Law enforcement agencies countrywide use numerous databases to find information to carry out their missions. The Memex platform allows analysts to perform a single search to query multiple databases.

The NIAC plans to use the platform to streamline the process for performing audits under 28 CFR part 23, a federal regulation that determines how suspicious activity reports can be collected, stored and disseminated.

The current audit process takes NIAC staff several days of sifting through documents by hand. “If we go back, we have to basically go look in each different document and find exactly how it was collected, stored and then disseminated along the way,” Knorr said. “We can, through Memex, basically view a document or a screen that’s going to tell us exactly who submitted the information, what it was at that time, which analyst took a look at the information and what processes they used to [vet it], or information they may have added, and then in the end, how we disseminated the entire document or even portions of it.”

Real-World Example

Dale Peet, retired commander of the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center (MIOC) who recently joined Memex, said the platform helped investigators in Michigan quickly eliminate leads in the case of multiple stabbings across the state last summer.  

MIOC and Memex staff ran the fusion center’s existing data through the system. According to Peet, investigators had reason to believe green pickup trucks were associated with the case. “I think there were like three green pickups out of the data that we currently had that were in that geographical area,” he said. "So that gave us some information to start looking at.”

In this case, none of the leads investigators found were associated with the case, he said. “But it did give us some things to look at and follow up on until we were able to confirm that it was not related.”

The alleged stabber, Elias Abuelazam, was arrested in Atlanta as he attempted to board a plane to Israel in August. He has since been extradited to Michigan. Abuelazam is suspected in 18 stabbings, killing five in Genesee County, Mich., as well as attacks in Ohio and Virginia, according to an article on the Michigan Live website.