Police list info-sharing suggestions

The International Association of Chiefs of Police

PHILADELPHIA — Pointing to inadequacies in the intelligence process that, in part, failed to prevent the 2001 terrorist attacks, law enforcement officials recently unveiled a national roadmap to help state, tribal and local agencies get a lot better at sharing information.

At its annual conference here last week, the International Association of Chiefs of Police presented its National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan, which outlines 28 recommendations. It's a way to jumpstart agencies that may lack the knowledge in developing such systems, particularly for small organizations; more than 70 percent of law enforcement agencies in the country have 24 or fewer officers.

"In my opinion, while we do a magnificent job collecting information, we do a poor job sharing it," said Chief Joseph Polisar of the Garden Grove (Calif.) Police Department. "[The plan] is only the first stage of this critical effort. We should be under no illusion. This is not an easy task."

The plan is the culmination of two years of work by state, tribal and local representatives working with Justice Department, FBI, and other federal officials.

While the plan emphasizes adoption of guidelines, policies and standards for collection, analysis and sharing processes, it also points toward use of technology, such as an architecture to provide secure, seamless information sharing. Protecting people's privacy was also emphasized as an important component.

The document calls for national funding to accomplish its goals. "Without adequate funding, many of the recommendations contained herein, such as improving training and technical infrastructure, will not occur and the country will remain at risk," it said.

The police organization also recommended the creation of a Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council — composed of state, tribal, local and federal agencies and national law enforcement organizations — to monitor the plan's implementation and advise Congress, the U.S. Attorney General, and Homeland Security Department secretary on the best use of criminal intelligence.

Criminal intelligence combines "credible information with quality analysis — information that has been evaluated and used to draw conclusions," according to the plan.

However, several barriers have hindered sharing criminal intelligence. They include the lack of a national process to generate and share intelligence, laws unduly restricting law enforcement access to information, the hierarchal structure of sharing information, deficits in analysis, and lack of good technologies to support it, the report said.

But law enforcement agencies aren't suffering from a lack of information, but a lack of relevant and credible information.

"We risk drowning one another in data," said Maureen Baginski, the FBI's first-ever executive assistant director for intelligence. "For us the real issue is sharing with one another the right data. I want to know what we don't know ... to protect the country."

She also said the FBI must do a better job of providing unclassified data to the state, tribal and local agencies and vowed it would provide unclassified threat information every day. Such information will help agencies see the interconnectedness between criminal and terrorist organizations.

"Intelligence has one measure of value: Did it help someone make a decision, from the patrolman to the president." she said.

Baginski added that people shouldn't get hung up on information technology tools and applications. What's important, Baginski, is the underlying data, which should be analyzed and tagged so it's useful.

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