Florida cops share data

Florida agencies want federal funding to complete the statewide rollout of a network that local law enforcement officials say could be the basis for a national information sharing strategy.

Development of the Florida Integrated Network for Data Exchange and Retrieval (FINDER) began in August 2002 with the goal of providing all 355 law enforcement agencies in the state a way to share critical information in hundreds of different police databases.

Twenty-three agencies are sharing information over the network and another 22 have signed a memorandum of understanding as a prelude to participating, said Lt. Mike McKinley, a member of the Orange County Sheriff's Office and chairman of the executive committee of Florida Law Enforcement Data Sharing Consortium (FLEDSC).

The FLEDSC and the University of Central Florida are joint developers of FINDER.

Without FINDER, police officers now have to make separate phone calls to other police agencies to check for information about suspects or such things as vehicle details, McKinley said. It's impossible for anyone to query every agency in the state with that method, he added.

"To be able to get information from all possible sources with just a few keystrokes is an enormous saving in time and the costs of those phone calls," McKinley said.

The University of Central Florida has estimated combined savings through sharing over FINDER could add up to as much as $10 million a year.

FINDER, built on Microsoft's .Net and SQL Server technology, uses the Global Justice XML Data Model to ensure that all agencies will easily be able to share their data.

"We don't want to create (a network) that the smaller agencies can't connect to in the future," McKinley said.

The intent is that FINDER will be self-funding in the future from annual fees charged to the agencies that use it, he said. In the meantime, Florida officials say they need federal funding to help expand the network.

In December, Florida kicked in $525,000 in state funds and the federal government contributed $250,000. That should help FINDER get to the core group of 81 agencies that the networks developers want to get up and running as a proof of concept of the FINDER approach, McKinley said.

Beyond that, given the $20,000 needed to connect each law enforcement agency to the network, the groups involved with FINDER are looking for about $5.1 million in federal funding to connect the remaining 255 agencies in a statewide deployment by 2007.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at brian@hullite.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.


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