The challenge of successfully managing the significant protocol and procedures related to criminal intelligence information remains.
Part of the strategy to overcome this obstacle is the use of automated intelligence management systems. These systems can play a vital role in supporting and enforcing the necessary processes that support the collection, management and development of intelligence. They also provide for the efficient and secure sharing of information between law enforcement partners at all levels.
The trust factor
Technology can also play a leading role in building trust among the different entities managing the data. While collecting information is important, disseminating it is paramount.
Information sharing needs to be facilitated via automation and a rules-based model, limiting the need for human intervention. Policies can be enforced to alert officials when searches hit on user-defined pertinent and important issues. Secure and scalable platforms that take into account multiple users, access levels and methods of sharing intelligence in today's dynamic intelligence environment are crucial to the successful sharing of raw information, finished and unfinished intelligence products.
During the critical development stage of any intelligence-led operation, the system should support information evaluation and the development of structured intelligence records, using tools that automate linking those records to their sources, as mandated by federal regulation. Of necessity, it should support security to its lowest level, locking not only entire records but also parts of those records through a flexible security definition system.
In addition, powerful visualization tools are necessary to help investigators and analysts connect seemingly disparate data, understand complex scenarios, and identify hidden relationships between data. Workflow management tools should be flexible enough to suit all staffing levels and experience. The input and retrieval of data should not be restricted to one specialist unit, since all information is potentially valuable to an agency.
Since real-time information is critical in the fight against crime and terrorism, the system's information-sharing tools must reduce barriers so details are available to those who need it most.
Continuing the fight
As more and more information-sharing centers become a reality, we need to ensure that they leverage the institutional knowledge that exists in law enforcement agencies and take full advantage of contemporary and developing technology. Daily examination of the influx of data is important so analysts can make judgments about the severity of threats. While a common activity for the military, the law enforcement community has yet to fully embrace the need for predictive analytical processes, utilizing cutting edge technologies, training personnel and developing true expertise. This can be best demonstrated by the painfully slow pace at which formally trained analysts are hired and deployed.
Furthermore, the fact that many large police agencies have yet to purchase, develop or deploy new information-sharing and analysis technology is alarming. Lack of funding and bureaucratically long procurement cycles have contributed to the problem in acquiring resources that are all absolutely necessary in a post-9/11 policing environment.
Good technology with properly trained investigators and analysts behind it can begin to bridge the information-sharing gap, and aid the continuing fight against crime and terrorism.
A former New Jersey intelligence chief, Capt. Stephen Serrao now helps fusion centers with data sharing. Serrao is also the Americas regional director of product management for Memex Inc. and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.