Maryland forms task force on public safety tech

Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend announced last week the creation of a state task force on public safety technology whose goal is to bring cutting-edge law enforcement and correction technologies to state and local criminal and juvenile justice agencies.

"The goals of the task force are to assess the information and communication needs of state and local agencies," said John Cohen, special assistant to the lieutenant governor. He added that the task force will connect state local police with parole agencies and other links in the criminal justice chain. "This integrated planning approach is the most cost-effective way to get these things done," Cohen said.

The task force will be include Stuart Sims, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; David B. Mitchell, superintendent of the Maryland State Police; Fred Puddester, secretary of the Department of Budget and Management; and other state and local public safety officials.

The group's goals include allowing all segments of the criminal justice system to share information with each other and citizens to promote community policing; the creation of a statewide wireless communication system for instant contact with the system; and the identification of federal, foundation and private funding to put these strategies in place.

The task force plans to conduct a detailed assessment of current criminal justice technology tools as well as future needs that may arise. "The task force wants to identify any legislative, public policy or procurement acts that it needs to take up to help build the most effective criminal justice information and communication infrastructure for the state," Cohen said.

As part of the effort, the University of Maryland has teamed with Mitretek Systems, a nonprofit technology firm, to create the Center for Criminal Justice Technology Research. Based near the university's College Park, Md., campus, the center will have a national scope and will bring new jobs to the state.

Mitretek is funding the initial start-up costs of the center, which will have its first group in place by the end of September, Cohen said. A company spokeswoman said predictions are that the center will spend "several hundred thousand dollars" from now until the center receives its initial outside funding.

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