The Business of Information Sharing

"What business is law enforcement in?"

Malone describes the general idea behind Thinkstream as allowing servers and computers across any platform to have a high degree of interoperability. "The officer at the most rudimentary level is able to search as many computing systems as Thinkstream is able to get connected to," says Malone.

Information sharing models

According to Paul San Soucie, Thinkstream vice president of customer relations, there are three real models for data sharing. The first model is all users are on the same system. "The problem here is that everybody has budgets and vendors they like," explains San Soucie. "I've seen some states that have tried to do that and it's a nice model — when you can get everyone to cooperate."

Another type is the warehouse model, similar to the FBI, NCIC stolen vehicles, wanted persons databases or individual department records. All data is collected and maintained by a single organization for everyone to access. "The problem is that chiefs and sheriffs are very reluctant to let anyone else control their data," says San Soucie. "Sometimes laws prohibit a department from participating in this." In addition, getting access to this information typically involves faxing, calling, going through dispatch or physically going to an office.

Thinkstream is an alternate model and San Soucie sees it as the best of both worlds. "Thinkstream allows users to keep their existing systems and, more importantly, keep the data with the owners." He goes on to explain, "With a single inquiry using Thinkstream software, users are able to type in a name or driver's license number and retrieve information from all the connected systems at the same time, and in real time," says San Soucie. This provides a complete criminal profile on an individual and not just what the state, federal or local agency has.

Thinkstream also can connect data from a legacy system to a brand new system. Combining the two provides law enforcement with applications that are used on an everyday basis. "If a user is interested in participating in the Thinkstream technology, the great thing is they don't have to go out and buy new computers, invest in a new records management system or change operating systems," explains Webre. "It's a process and a technology that allows an agency to share whatever it is satisfied with to fit its needs and still electronically capture and use tons of information within many databases of the criminal justice system."

Thinkstream is not meant to be a replacement for existing databases. It is simply a technology that allows a department to access most any database and share its own. "This is not a substitute to NCIC or state criminal histories and warrant lists," explains Webre. "It really augments those databases and brings in more information."

Fast-flowing stream

Incorporating Thinkstream technology also is a relatively quick and simple process. Depending on the age of the database and the system it operates on, Thinkstream technicians can generally have a department up and running in four to six weeks. "Departments are used to vendors coming back with a six- or 12-month time estimate to massage the data, and we don't approach it from that way," explains San Soucie. "We use the Justice XML that is starting to become a standard from the U. S. Department of Justice, and add software to the databases that basically speak Justice XML."

Ease of use

Having access to a large amount of information, there is the possibility that mining for the immediately pertinent information may take a long time to accomplish. Thinkstream is established to present information in a clear, fast and easy-to-understand manner. "In certain instances, it required the officer to read a paragraph or more to find the information he needed," says San Soucie.

The problem of buried information is significantly reduced through Thinkstream using Web-based search forms. "When you get your results, they're in English," says San Soucie. "Everything is formatted in sentence format so it's easier to read."

Radio communication from patrol officers also has been significantly reduced due to Thinkstream's ease of use. "There are a lot of things the guys can run, and the radio operators who used to have to do everything for them don't have to do it anymore," says Baker.

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