Case Study: Regional Data Sharing
Information gathered by law enforcement officers often never leaves a local agency’s own computer system or even an officer’s stack of handwritten reports. Officials with the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) wanted to change this with a statewide searchable database to share information gathered at the local level.
"We wanted to create a one-stop shop for local law enforcement either on the street or at their desk,” said DCI’s Ross Uhrig.
In the past, an investigator pursuing leads in a break-in would not know that a suspect was linked to similar crimes in another jurisdiction, and a parole officer would not know that a parolee had been pulled over in a traffic stop elsewhere in the state. In both incidents, the information would have impacted how officers proceeded.
"An agency’s information is valued greatly beyond their own geographic location,” said DCI Director Bryan Gortmaker.
At the same time, DCI officials sought the technical methodology to launch the agency’s participation in the FBI’s National Data Exchange (N-DEx) program, which is a repository of criminal justice records available in a secure online environment.
Information provided to N-DEx must conform to the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) to be used in the database.
Zuercher Technologies was chosen to create a system that would collect data from disparate public safety agencies and build a central repository of information that could be searched by officers across the state. Subsequently, a portion of the data would be exported for inclusion in the FBI’s N-DEx database for use at the national level.
The result was ConnectSD, which eliminates the boundaries created by individual public safety software systems and shares data within the state.
The program compiles:
- Incident and case reports
- Arrest reports
- Computer-aided dispatch calls
- Traffic citations
- Photos (Beginning in Phase II)
- Booking and incarceration data
DCI’s Gortmaker said one feature that was appealing to officers in local jurisdictions was that each agency using ConnectSD retains control over what information to include in the shared database. "They get to share their valued information statewide, so it gains in value, but they also still maintain ownership over those records,” he said. Sensitive data can be censored and flagged so it is not shared.
Uhrig, who is project manager for ConnectSD, added that another selling point at the local level was that the system uses Global Federated Identity and Privilege Management (GFIPM) technology for authenticating users, so officers do not need a separate login for the secure, web-based storehouse.
"Using available standards and not trying to re-invent the wheel has been key to this software,” Uhrig said. "Developing a system to ensure a secure deployment would have taken additional time and resources we did not have. By using these standards, we solved our deployment before development began. Law enforcement personnel do not need to remember an additional user name or password.”
All data is transferred automatically, with no additional steps required by users. The system updates in real time based on intervals determined by each agency, keeping the database full of the most current Incident Arrest (IA) and Incarceration Booking (IB) data that conform to the national Information Exchange Package Documentation (IEPD) field structure.
"These standards have seen some real adoption over the last few years. So rather than re-invent anything, South Dakota decided that it would be very standardized from the perspective of how data is exchanged,” said Zuercher Technologies President Michael Zuercher.
Use of the national data-sharing standards according to the Global privacy development template also ensures the protection of every citizen’s civil liberties, said Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead. "South Dakota’s program will be a ‘best practice’ and something that can be duplicated in other jurisdictions,” he said.
Another product of ConnectSD is the capability for it to serve as a Records Management System (RMS) for agencies that don’t have an in-house system.
"About 80 percent of law enforcement agencies in the United States have fewer than 20 officers and as such, most of their information is in handwritten reports,” Milstead said. Phase II of ConnectSD gathers that information that has not been historically searchable and creates an RMS solution for local agencies as well as adding the information to the statewide repository.
"Zuercher Technologies has been key in helping us to affordably connect South Dakota, not only with its technical expertise, but also with its understanding of the national standards that the country is moving to,” stated Milstead.
ConnectSD greatly enhances an investigator’s ability to locate criminals and track suspect activity and behavior at the local level. In addition, by using national information-sharing standards, the program facilitates linking South Dakota to the critical national N-DEx project.
The system can be used to create a data-sharing environment within any area, region or state. It gives patrol officers, investigators, and intake officers equal access to critical information that they need to better serve the public.
"At the end of the day, this is about capability, not acronyms,” Milstead said. “ConnectSD makes our citizens safer and our officers safer.”
The National Criminal Justice Association hosted a webinar reviewing the success of ConnectSD. View the webinar