SEARCH Symposium highlights renewed focus on information exchange among government agencies
Although sharing information among the courts, the police and other justice
agencies in every level of government has been a goal of dedicated individuals
and organizations during the last several years, the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks has given the issue a renewed national scope.
Critics say that Sept. 11 highlighted the lack of information exchange
and underscored the importance of improved coordination to prevent future
So, it comes as no surprise that attendance to the 2002 SEARCH Integrated
Justice Information Systems Symposium this year has increased significantly
— to just under a thousand registered participants from 50 states, Puerto
Rico, Canada, the Netherlands and the Republic of South Africa. The number
of vendors exhibiting technology solutions has also increased — from six
in 1996 to about 40 this year.
"It simply underscores how current the topic is," said David Roberts,
the deputy executive director of SEARCH, the National Consortium for Justice
Information and Statistics, of the terrorist attacks.
SEARCH, which was formed in 1969 and is a nonprofit group based in Sacramento,
Calif., provides technical and policy assistance, training, research and
development, and resources to state and local governments as they try to
integrate justice information systems. It is sponsoring the three-day symposium,
which will run through March 27, in Washington, D.C. along with the Bureau
of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Justice Department.
The symposium's goal is to provide state and local jurisdictions information
on information sharing through better governance, planning, standards and
Regardless of the jurisdiction, the issues surrounding information exchange
are universal, Roberts said. While policy and governance play a large role
in the lack of information exchange, he said people shouldn't dismiss technology
either. "Technology is an issue," said Roberts, referring to old legacy
systems. "It's not the sole issue and it's not the solution."
BJA Director Richard Nedelkoff, who has worked for various city, county
and state governments developing criminal justice programs, said the federal
government was showing its support by providing $750 million to state and
local governments on justice information systems. "Just seven years ago,
we spent approximately $50 million in a $1 billion budget," he said.
Nedelkoff, along with Aldona Valicenti, Kentucky's chief information
officer who was the symposium's keynote speaker, highlighted numerous national
and state projects under way to promote information sharing.
"It has grown because the interest is there," Valicenti said of information
sharing. "It has grown because the situation is probably more critical now
than ever before."
She showed the audience a box of candy's nutritional information and
bar code that can track it from the factory to the purchase.
"Astounding," she said, adding it truly shows integrated information.
"What do we know about a criminal? Do we know as much? Do we know less?"
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