Law enforcement information sharing has expanded significantly across all levels of government, improving law enforcement's ability to detect, prevent, and respond to acts of terrorism. The sharing of law enforcement information is not a single integrated process. Rather, it cuts across business processes in multiple communities and at all levels of government. But these seemingly unrelated efforts share many features in common. A fundamental component of effective enterprise-wide information sharing, for example, is the use of information systems that regularly capture relevant data and make it broadly available to authorized users in a timely and secure manner. Although the focus of the ISE is terrorism-related information, many of the techniques used to improve sharing of terrorism information are also applicable to other types of crimes and vice versa. Criminal history records, law enforcement incident reports, records of judicial actions and decisions, and watch lists of known and suspected terrorists are all essential sources of vital data that provide accurate, timely, and complete information to law enforcement officers across the country.
Information Sharing Leads to Interagency Collaboration
Since 9/11, federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies have worked collaboratively to detect and prevent terrorism-related and other types of criminal activity. FBI-sponsored Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) and fusion centers represent a change in culture and a willingness to share information among agencies and across all levels of government. Both are partnerships that rely on new policies, business processes, architectures, standards, and systems that provide users the ability to collaborate and share information. In addition, both resulted in key agreements and partnerships to exchange operational data reports, case files, and similar information on both open and closed investigations.
Implementing Information Sharing
A common, although not universal, implementation approach features distributed sharing methods, which allow each organization to retain its own information and, at the same time, make it available for others to search and retrieve. Since this information may be maintained in different formats by each organization, the Law Enforcement Information Sharing Program Exchange Specification (LEXS)—a subset of the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM)—was developed to translate information shared among different law enforcement systems into a common format, enabling participants on one system to receive and use information from multiple sources.
Sources of Shared Information
FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division currently serves more than one million users in 18,000 organizations. CJIS exchanges information with its partners through state-of-the-art technologies and statistical services that span the criminal justice community—from automated fingerprint systems to crime statistics; from secure communications to gun purchase background checks. CJIS services include:
- Law Enforcement On-line (LEO) – FBI’s LEO system has provided a protected means for sharing information with regional law enforcement agency partners through a project originally known as Regional Data Exchange (R-DEx) and subsequently adopted by DOJ for all of its components and renamed OneDOJ. LEO provides access to several secure, Internet communication and transport services such as the National Alert System, Virtual Command Center, and e-Guardian.
- National Crime Information Center
- Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), the U.S. criminal fingerprint identification system;
- Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which has developed and provided statistics describing crime rates across the U.S. since 1930.
The DOJ-sponsored RISS Program supports law enforcement efforts nationwide to combat illegal drug trafficking, identity theft, human trafficking, violent crime, terrorist activity, and to promote officer safety. RISS was established more than 30 years ago, in response to specific regional crime problems and the need for cooperation and secure information sharing among law enforcement agencies. Today, RISS is a national network of six multistate centers designed to operate on a regional basis. The regional configuration allows each center to offer support services that are tailored to the investigative and prosecution needs of member agencies, though the centers also provide services and products that are national in scope. RISS operates the secure intranet RISSNET™ to facilitate law enforcement communications and information sharing nationwide. More than 102,000 local, state, federal, and tribal law enforcement personnel have online access to share intelligence and coordinate efforts against criminal networks that operate in many locations across jurisdictional lines. The RISS Program is a federally funded program administered by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).
N-DEx supports law enforcement and criminal justice agencies and multi-jurisdictional task forces—enhancing national information sharing across federal, state, regional, local, and tribal investigative agencies and task forces – by bringing together investigative data from criminal justice agencies across the United States, including incident and case reports, booking and incarceration data, and parole/probation information. N-DEx provides advanced data exploitation tools to identify relationships and correlations between people, vehicle/property, location, and crime characteristics.
The Department of Homeland Security Law Enforcement Information Sharing Service (LEISS)
The LEISS project has expanded significantly since inception, now with 489 participating agencies representing more than 26,000 user accounts and covering all major geographic regions in the U.S. The number of participating agencies is expected to more than triple over the next year.