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California's SmartJustice Mimics Google Search for Cops

Information about people in the criminal justice system is viewed in a simplified Web-based interface from searches that simultaneously integrate state data sources, county law enforcement and probation information, and regional information-sharing systems.

Often, what is smart is also simple. That's the key to SmartJustice -- California's information-sharing Web portal that pulls together county and state information about criminal defenders into one interface. 

The California Department of Justice and the Office of the Attorney General designed, developed and implemented SmartJustice, whose key functionality is like Google for a police officer searching a suspect's formal criminal record.

The application was recently added to the state's secure mobile platform known as JusticeMobile, and is being used by more than 40 California agencies to connect officers to important information not only on their desktop computers, but also on mobile devices. The platform is a first of its kind released on a statewide level.   

"We bring together with SmartJustice, in a single view, all of the information that exists about people who are criminal offenders," said Adrian Farley, CIO of the DOJ. 

This information is viewed in a simplified Web-based interface from searches that simultaneously integrate state data sources -- such as the Wanted Persons System and the photographic repository Cal-Photo -- and also access county law enforcement and probation information, and regional information-sharing systems. Officers using SmartJustice partner to share and contribute data. 

Officers can pull up an offender profile -- which can be useful during traffic stops and to report encounters -- by simply typing a name. Other functionalities include probation features like viewing the history and notes of an offender under supervision, and flagging and receiving notifications about individuals. Offender data can be displayed via mapping to identify possible gang or high-crime areas.  

SmartJustice also has an executive dashboard for top officials to view high-level aggregated information, like operation reports. 

Although the JusticeMobile platform has other applications, the DOJ's long-term plan for SmartJustice is to be the single application for all criminal justice information related to people, Farley said. To this end, the DOJ is continually adding data sets to SmartJustice so that it provides more complete information.

SmartJustice accesses the state's confidential information system -- the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, or CLETS -- using the JusticeMobile secure framework with XenMobile from Citrix. Xenmobile containerizes and controls the information remotely, according to David Smith, director of state and local government at Citrix.

The one-stop portal also helps solve the historic problem of needing to visit different systems with different passwords and sign-ons, said Susan Merritt, CIO for the San Francisco Police Department, whose jurisdiction is now piloting the mobile application.

Potentially, an officer may need to search 24-plus databases to uncover what is known about a person, she said.  "The power in law enforcement is not isolated, disconnected data," Merritt said. "It's connecting everything together."  

SmartJustice also provides law enforcement and probation officials with prioritized information about key subjects, such as if a person is wanted, has an outstanding warrant, is on probation, or is armed and dangerous -- information vital to an officer's safety, Farley said. 

Using an older system to query a suspect's criminal profile does not offer search results ordered on relevance and importance to an officer, Merritt said, adding that the information is also harder to decipher. 

"The systems are too complicated," she said. "It shouldn't be that difficult on the officers, and Kamala Harris has recognized that, and that's why she's doing SmartJustice."

The SFPD is piloting SmartJustice and has plans to embed the interface into the "people" tab of its Crime Data Warehouse -- the police department's local incident application and Web-based system. This way, one portal will give SFPD officers secure access to formal criminal and incident information.  

SmartJustice came about because of a change in the criminal justice process that moved the supervision of former offenders from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to county probation departments, Farley said. This shifting of roles called for better sharing of information. 

The state worked with county departments and law enforcement agencies to create a more complete picture of offenders and, at the same time, provide a consistent and common view of information about people in the criminal justice system, Farley said. 

The beta version of SmartJustice was released in October 2013, and the first full release was that December. 

Agencies using SmartJustice include the California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, and the Los Gatos Police Department, Farley said. 

Agencies can access SmartJustice's Web portal through their existing local system or the DOJ's network free of charge, and the DOJ will tailor interfaces for law enforcement and probation agencies. Authorized officials access the portal using a device that's network connected and secured according to the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Security Policy.