Information sharing between the various levels of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies has historically been problematic. Both human and technological shortcomings have been blamed for the lack of meaningful sharing. The slow, disjointed improvement we have seen over the years has largely come about as a result of significant natural and historic events.
Without doubt, the tragic events of 9/11 had a positive effect jump starting the law enforcement community's efforts to resolve long standing information-sharing issues. The scrutiny and investigation into "who knew what and when," and more importantly, "who told whom" has dramatically revealed the gaps and holes in the flow of information.
Public perception of law enforcement's ability to protect life, property and prevent future heinous acts has undoubtedly been negatively affected. And the deadly terrorist event last November in Mumbai, India, elevated concerns over protective capabilities should a similar murder spree, terrorist or hostage siege take place in America.
As we see great strides taken all across the country to improve sharing, remove barriers and integrate data at all levels, several questions arise:
- What's the next step?
- What is being done with the information?
- What analysis is being conducted?
- What type of threat assessment is being conducted?
An underlying principal of intelligence-led policing, widely accepted as an effective policing strategy, is that it is an analytical-driven threat assessment. Although this type of assessment is not new, its broad application is to most in the law enforcement community. In fact, many officers on the street harbor disdain for this approach to policing and criminal investigation because they believe it distracts them from doing their jobs — catching criminals and locking them up.
But best practice models and intelligence mandates require analytical-driven policing and greater information sharing among federal, state and local authorities to fight crime and terrorism. Though some law enforcement executives believe these noteworthy goals have been accomplished, an examination of the current state of affairs speaks differently:
- Coordination of intelligence between federal, state and local agencies is still inconsistent from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
- Federal authorities rarely, and then only manually, tap state tips-and-lead management systems to investigate suspicious activities and trends. Additionally, all feeds of local suspicious activity information are manually fed to the FBI Guardian System.
- The FBI has had limited exposure to training and limited access to state and local information systems. Consequently, it cannot access the information it needs in real time.
- Fusion centers, which are the intra- and inter-state mechanisms for exchanging information and intelligence to prevent attacks, are just realizing the value of integrating multiple data sources, including local intelligence systems.
However, there are bright spots:
- The FBI has begun to place Field Intelligence Group personnel at state and local fusion centers to make the state-federal connection more seamless.
- The Department of Homeland Security has also begun to co-locate analytical personnel at state and local fusion centers.
- The Regional Information Sharing System Network (RISSNET) continues to act as a facilitator in the sharing of intelligence and helps coordinate efforts against criminal networks that operate across jurisdictional lines in many locations.
- LEO (Law Enforcement Online) and Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN), two national interactive communications systems and information services, are more routinely used by the state and local law enforcement.
- The National Data Exchange System has gone live. This system will provide unprecedented national access to local law enforcement records management systems.