Information Systems and Law Enforcement

Technology is an essential tool to criminal justice and law enforcement agencies. The faster and more effectively it works, the safer our streets and communities are. The more cost effectively it can work, the more officers, investigators and agents can be used to fight crime. Not paperwork. Since the first wave of computerization in the 1970’s the implementation of information technology within policing has been questioned and often met with resistance(Hoey, P. 69).

The development of an Information Technology strategy must be viewed in the context of increasing expectations and pressure for reform within the police service as a whole and is set against a background of reports and studies aimed at letting the police service meet it’s goals more effectively. The business environment in which police forces operate is changing; increased demands for efficiency has led to information technology being recognized as a valuable and innovative addition to policing.

Over the last decade, computer and telecommunications technologies have developed at an extraordinary rate. Increased computer power, advances in data transmission and attractive and user-friendly graphic interfaces present law enforcement agencies with unprecedented capacity to collect, store, analyze and share data with stakeholders inside and outside of government(Reichert, 2001). Ultimately, information technology represents a tool to help law enforcement achieve it broadened and increasingly complex mission. This holds true for the past and the future.

Historically, the innovation of information systems has served as the catalyst for dramatic changes in the organization of police work and has presented both opportunities and challenges to police and other criminal justice practitioners, according to Janet Chan (Reichert, 2001). Noting that information is the stock-in trade of policing. In 1967, under the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database was created. The NCIC is the United States central database for tracking crime-related information.

While most information is maintained and stored on FBI infrastructure, not all information in the NCIC is stored on FBI servers. Information such as in-state criminal histories, driver’s license, vehicle registration and in-state warrants are maintained on the state level. Because the NCIC is an internetworked system, mostinformation maintained on the state level is available to any authorized agency. Recently, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has raised concerns over the validity of information in the NCIC database.

A broad coalition of organizations across the United States has endorsed a letter urging the reestablishment of accuracy requirements for the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the nation’s largest criminal justice database. More than 3,000 individuals from 47 states and the District of Columbia have signed an online petition to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) also supporting the Privacy Act accuracy requirements(Wikipedia. org) The Chicago Police Department (CPD) has been at the forefront of the information technology race in law enforcement.

Over the last decade the CPD has introduced a number of information systems centered on policing strategy that aims at making the community a partner in the policing process. One of the systems that is making a difference for the CPD is the CLEAR system. The Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR) system was developed to harness information to more effectively manage the department, strengthen community partnerships and share data with other criminal justice systems. CLEAR was created to manage information flow.

Under CLEAR, the CPD has developed a Records Management System that employs nine operational systems which include •Fingerprints •Mug shots •Criminal History record indentification •Internal inspections •External complaints Has CLEAR made a difference? According to CPD CLEAR has eliminated redundant data entry and helped in developing management reports. (5) Because there is only one information system, all stakeholders will need to learn only one system. As a result of this system, as it is modified is said to allow police personnel more time to solve crime(Reichert, P. 3).

There is nothing but the future for information systems and information technology concerning law enforcement. On Nov 16 2006 the Dallas City Council gave final approval for Dallas departments of police, fire and aviation to be the first subscribers to COCO Communications Service. The service allows the agencies to have access to this encrypted networkallowing them to communicate voice, video and data easily with each other using their existing radios and networks(Government Technology) CoCo Communication’s software protocol rides on top of existing network infrastructures.

The protocol eliminates communication breakdowns created by systems that use differing frequencies or operating systems. The service integrates with wireless carriers, extending access to the service and allows radios, laptops, cell phones and PDTs to communicate across the network(Government Technology). The result will be that users will be able to converse with their colleagues as well as other federal, state and local agencies on the network to share critical information during emergency situations or for normal day to day activities.

Creative uses and development of new information technology and systems have the potential to increase the capacity and effectiveness of law enforcement in fulfilling it’s complex mission of today. This includes the increased demands in the post 911 world. Implementing such systems faces a host of challenges. Acceptance by local, state and federal governments are always a hinder. Privacy and security concerns always generate controversy. But the number one challenge of implementing new systems and technology is how to pay for them.

No technology provides magic tools for solving complicated problems like crime. But attention to the work of pioneers in law enforcement-like the Chicago Police Department and Dallas-can provide helpful guidance for policymakers as they consider moving ahead in the future. References Government Technology, (2006). Dallas launches Citywide Interoperability Network [Electronic Version]. Criminal Justice Information Services Division, Wikipedia, The free encyclopedia Reichert, Kent (2001, December). Use of Information Technology by Law Enforcement, 1-4.