Access to timely, relevant information is vital to modern-day policing. However, when it comes to sharing cross-agency intelligence, the challenges of finding efficient and cost-effective ways to gather, store, and distribute data across multiple jurisdictions can quickly become a barrier to progress.
Whether the problems stem from inadequate funding, conflicting operational standards, or insufficient buy-in, the outcome is still the same. Without clear guidelines, law enforcement agencies across the country continue to rely solely on internal records to provide officers with enough details to do their jobs safely and effectively.
Unfortunately, siloed information severely limits an agency’s ability to analyze, predict, and respond to crime. It places unnecessary obstacles in front of investigations and diminishes situational intelligence in the field. In an industry where ‘doing more with less’ is an everyday reality, regional data sharing helps agencies address the historical challenges of limited staffing and dwindling technology budget by allowing them to pool resources, share costs, and streamline inter-agency communications.
How? Let’s explain.
Empowering Agencies to Work Smart & Stay Safe
Building off the concept of collective intelligence, regional data sharing enables law enforcement agencies to quickly obtain access to a neighboring department’s record management and jail management systems, including subject and inmate records. Using this data, officers, investigators, and command staff can gain a clearer, more comprehensive view of the crimes affecting their communities and the subjects interacting with their officers.
For example, a series of strong-arm robberies occurring throughout the state may display similar characteristics, but without visibility to a neighboring agency’s records, investigators might not see the connection or have access to evidence linking these crimes. As an effect, the pattern may go unnoticed or result in wasted resources, duplicate efforts, and lengthy investigations.
In another situation, officers executing an arrest warrant may not have access to suspect information such as known alias, gang affiliations, prior address records, or past aggression towards police. In this case, the number of unknowns isn’t just a matter of efficiency; it’s a safety issue. Without an accurate picture of the situation, officers may not be aware of who they are dealing with or what they are walking into. In contrast, when officers have visibility to an adjacent department’s past dealings with a subject, they can adjust their methods and ensure sufficient resources are available to assist.
Streamlining Interoperability & Shared Records Management
Despite the obvious benefits, many departments are hesitant to integrate their data. This resistance might be due to a miscommunication of how data sharing works, who pays the bill or the perceived level of complication.
Contrary to popular belief, regional data sharing isn’t an all or nothing approach. Departments retain control of their internal systems, and there is no forcible co-mingling of data. Today’s solutions enable agencies to define separate sharing agreements for each regional partner without actually divulging credentials to their system.
Best of all, most platforms are incredibly user-friendly. Users can easily access shared data right from their agency’s records management system; eliminating the need to log into multiple applications, enter separate inquiries, or memorize a complicated string of steps.
Another benefit? Data sharing increases administrative efficiency and reduces duplication. Instead of wasting time manually entering data to incident logs or jail booking forms, users can simply transfer subject information from their partner’s system straight to their report.
However, that’s not all.
When it comes to security, data systems offer a wide range of protection and encryption tools to keep information from falling into the wrong hands. Access is permission-based. Agencies can decide what information they share with whom, and how that information appears on outside terminals. In addition to customizable permissions, the platform also provides 360-degree visibility to an inquirer’s location, as well as a time-stamped record of the transaction.
As far as cost-effectiveness, there are several ways to make the process more affordable. Depending on the platform, the cost of data sharing programs can be divided amongst participating agencies or even included in the price of a host agency’s vendor contract.
Investing in the Future of Law Enforcement
The bottom line? While crime can be random in nature or part of a larger pattern, the truth is, criminals rarely respect jurisdictional boundaries. As mainstream technology evolves and crimes grow increasingly transient, the ability to stay ahead of criminal activity is becoming inherently more complex.
While funds might be tight, and resources may be scarce, regional data sharing helps close the gap between effectiveness and efficiency. Working together, law enforcement agencies can extend their reach and create a force-multiplier through collective intelligence, distributed resources, and a constant flow of collaborative communication.