The world is finally catching up to Paul Wormeli. Mobile terminals for law enforcement; computerized criminal history systems; transmission of fingerprints — Wormeli was working on these concepts in the 1960s and ’70s.

What took us so long? Maybe he was just ahead of his time. Ultimately Wormeli’s visionary leadership and his unique ability for building consensus helped facilitate the implementation of integrated justice information systems throughout the nation.

In 1968, Wormeli and some colleagues formed Public Systems Inc. and were granted a patent on the first mobile computer terminal in law enforcement. In 1969, Wormeli became the national project coordinator for Project Search, a consortium of states delving into advanced technology in criminal justice; it later become the Search Group, the online resource for justice and public safety professionals.

Project Search’s first major endeavor was to build a prototype computerized criminal history system. That was 1971 when, under Wormeli’s direction, 10 states successfully exchanged criminal history records in the prototype. That system is now provided by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

Wormeli went on to lead Search in many areas, including demonstrating the use of satellite transmission of fingerprints and developing the Attribute Based Crime Reporting system, which became the National Incident-Based Reporting System. He helped create the concept of an offender-based transaction statistics system, now widely implemented as the Offender Based Tracking System.

If you fast-forward through accomplishment after accomplishment you get to 2001 and the 9/11 attacks after which the Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Institute was formed. Wormeli guided the institute during its formative years, and it now includes nearly 300 companies that work to help solve information-sharing issues and develop government standards in the areas of justice, public safety and homeland security.

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Jim McKay  |  Contributing Editor

Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management magazine. He lives in Orangevale, Calif., with his wife, Christie, daughter, Ellie and son, Ronan. He relaxes by fly fishing on the Truckee River for big, wild trout.