A major obstacle impeding data aggregation at fusion centers is disparate record-keeping methodologies for agencies within a given information sharing network. Often times, each agency has its own method for tracking and storing incident reports, making it difficult for fusion center staff to coordinate and consolidate information coming from various sources. Furthermore, differences in resources possessed by large and small agencies create a situation where not all law enforcement departments possess the infrastructure necessary to meet federal standards for information sharing.
While larger agencies have much more sophisticated IT departments, smaller and mid-sized agencies may not have the capital and human resources to maintain the IT infrastructure necessary to comply with information sharing standards. The end result is that while major metropolitan police forces may be effectively contributing to the mission objectives of fusion centers, smaller agencies may still use dated methods to file incident reports, resulting in large gaps in the information consolidated at local fusion centers.
The adoption of SaaS applications by law enforcement has huge potential benefits for small- and medium-sized agencies. Not only do existing SaaS applications offer agencies with limited budgets sophisticated and affordable field-reporting solutions, but they aid inter-agency information sharing efforts by creating a standard for the information flow within the network. Furthermore, SaaS vendors can make sure their solutions comply with standards set by local fusion centers to maximize compatibility and information exchange.
Benefits of SaaS applications
- No additional hardware is needed
- Low start-up costs
- Add users as you go, when you need them
- Affordable monthly payment to better manage cash flow
- Print reports that look like your paper reports
- Easy to set up report bundling capability
Closing the gap
The National Incident Exchange Model (NIEM), formed through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Justice and the federal Department of Homeland Security, was created to facilitate the development of enterprise-wide information exchange standards which can be uniformly developed, centrally maintained, quickly identified and discovered, and efficiently reused. Since the implementation of NIEM, there have been a score of technology vendors offering products that claim to help law enforcement come up to speed with NIEM standards.
However, the majority of these products have been designed for departments with large budgets capable of meeting the financial and human capital requirements associated with the installation of complex data-management systems. Additionally, the first generation of these technologies, which many law enforcement agencies are now just beginning to grasp, have become dated by new and improved next-generation systems that require further infrastructure to manage.
The result is that large agencies clamor to stay up to speed on the most recent versions of software to ensure compatibility with federal information sharing standards and the growing technological disparity between the largest law enforcement agencies and smaller community-based police departments. This disparity inhibits intelligence analysts' ability to see the "whole picture" in terms of recognizing how terrorist and criminal networks operate across geographic expanses.
The inability of community police departments to acquire the technologies necessary to effectively share information not only impedes their ability to perform their primary job function, but the resulting intelligence gaps pose a threat to national security.
This is especially true considering the ability of terrorist and criminal networks to capitalize on recent advances in communications technology and transportation to carry out operations over large geographical areas. In fact, criminal networks are highly aware of the limitations of information sharing capabilities of smaller police departments, and they exploit this vulnerability to carry out a range of illicit activities.The benefits of SaaS for law enforcement
SaaS applications have a great deal of potential to address the needs of small community police departments to ensure they are able to participate in information sharing networks with other law enforcement agencies.