Information Sharing Between Police and Parole and Probation
DC Public Safety Radio-Podcast
LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sips. Our show today ladies and gentleman Information Sharing Between Parole and Probation and Law Enforcement, back at our microphones is Adam Matz. He is a Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association, www.appa-net.org and we have Yogesh Chawla. He is an Information Sharing Specialist with SEARCH and the Nation Consortium for Justice Information Sharing. The website for SEARCH is www.search.org. Adam, welcome back. Yogesh, welcome to our microphones at DC Public Safety.
ADAM MATZ: It is great to be back.
YOGESH CHAWLA: Thanks it great to be here Len.
LEONARD SIPES: Well it is great to have both of you. Adam, I thank you for doing these shows with the American Probation and Parole Association. Always great shows; some of our more popular shows. All right, we are talking about information sharing between parole and probation and law enforcement and you wrote an article that is currently being submitted addressing the Offender Transfer Notification Service and I want to start off with establishing some of the definitions that we are dealing with here. Essentially, Adam tell me if I’m right or wrong, we have a prototype program that electronically sends out information on offenders being transferred from one state to another to a law enforcement fusion center and when they get that information they can disseminate that to everybody else in that law enforcement fusion center or in that state correct.
ADAM MATZ: Yeah that is correct. The information exchange project: APPA American Probation and Parole Association has been working with SEARCH who is the technical partner on this particular exchange. We partner with the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision and what we have done is developed a project where a subset of the state transfers, folks deemed potentially dangerous, whenever their transfers are approved and they are ready to be relocated to another state, the idea behind this exchange is that that state will receive notification so that the Fusion Centers in that state will receive notifications of these individuals. And it’s just basic information. And then those fusion center are then able to turn around and distribute that information through their channels to the local law enforcement in that state.
LEONARD SIPES: Okay now we do have and for our none, it is mostly a criminal justice audience, but for the non criminal justice audience I always use the same example to the aid of the mayor of Milwaukee who is looking for information about information sharing between parole and probation and law enforcement. The states transfer people under supervision to each other all the time and there’s hundreds of thousands of people moving from one state to the other for a wide variety of reasons. That state, through the Interstate Compact, the receiving state must accept this individual and it happens routinely. Correct?
ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right.
LEONARD SIPES: Okay and so the idea is to be sure that law enforcement, through a fusion center, and describe to me what fusion center is.
ADAM MATZ: Yes, the fusion center, the State fusion centers and there is roughly 70 of them across the country but basically after 9-11 there was concern about information sharing across the country and the Department of Homeland Security was a big part of developing these Fusion Centers and they are maintained by the individual states and they are basically responsible for compiling information on various different, it could be criminal, it could be disaster related type of information, compiling that information and making folks in that state aware of those.
LEONARD SIPES: So that was in reaction to the criticism after 9-11 that law enforcement agencies and criminal justice agencies were not talking to each other.
ADAM MATZ: That’s right, exactly right.
LEONARD SIPES: Okay. So the idea here and the idea behind the article, is that they are pilot testing this in New York State but this is something that’s going to be expanded to the possibility of it being expanded to all the other states throughout the United States?
ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and in fact the Interstate Compact as you know is national in scope, so it takes care of basically takes care of all the exchanges, for all the transfers for all the states in the country. Now where we are at with this exchange we’ve had a pilot in place with New York State intelligent centre and a New York State Fusion Center to receive notifications of individuals transferring into that state and that can include anyone across the country, any of the other 49 states. And that’s been going on for about a year. Now on average they get basically maybe 10-15 notifications per week.
LEONARD SIPES: This is in New York State?
ADAM MATZ: That’s right.
LEONARD SIPES: Okay, because they are not talking about every offender, they are talking about those deemed to be of most concern; those are the people of the highest risk?
ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and to kind of expand on that, one of the conversation points we had early on, we had work group meetings several years ago on this, was there’s no standardized risk assessment across the country and that was kind of an issue. So we couldn’t really go by a risk level, if you will, because it varies depending on what instrument folks use. So because of standardization what we ended up doing instead was relying on primary offence, NCIC codes – so basically the primary offence, what level that is and the seriousness of that. And we worked with obviously the fusion center in New York to develop that specific list as well.
LEONARD SIPES: All right, so the bottom line behind all of this though, is that this is the program that we are going to be talking about or the issue. The Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision is what we are talking about today but I just want to make it clear to the listeners that the vast majority of information exchange between law enforcement and parole and probation and corrections is done at the local level like here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and for those who don’t know we are a federal agency. We provide parole and probation services to Washington DC. We’re in constant contact with law enforcement anywhere from the FBI to the Secret Service to Housing Authority but principally the Metropolitan Police Department. We’re in touch with them on a daily basis exchanging information. Our parole and probation agents, known here as community supervision officers, are constantly exchanging information with police officers at the street level. So I don’t want to give the opinion or the sense that the bulk of this information exchange happens through this sort of mechanism, that the bulk of information exchange happens at the command level and between individual police officers and parole and probation agents. Correct?
ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and to kind of build on that a little bit, you know. and we have had prior shows about police and probation and parole partnerships, and sort of informal information sharing that happens. This exchange is new. There is not any previous sort of attempt to share information like this between the Interstate Compact and the law enforcement, so it is kind of a nice opportunity to kind of automate, because it is automated. There is no manual aspect to it. Once the exchange is established, the information and notifications go out basically as soon as they’re ready. And usually it’s once a week but it is kind of configurable depending on you know the fusion center and how they want to receive it and how they want to disseminate. So there is some flexibility in there as well.
One thing that I want to point out too, is the goals of this exchange in particular. One of the primarily goals of this exchange, from the very beginning, has always been about increasing officer safety, particularly police officer safety and situational awareness. And there is obviously different examples of where maybe law enforcement go into situations where they are not fully prepared or maybe they are not fully aware of the individuals they’re dealing with. So the genesis behind this exchange is twofold. One is officer safety and two, it is really about encouraging more dialogue, more coordination between police and probation and parole agents.
LEONARD SIPES: Which is a good thing. Which is a necessary thing. Yogesh Chawla, I apologize for not getting to you. I am looking down at my time clock and we’re close to 9 minutes in the program and you and I haven’t even talked yet. But let me give something in the article that both of you wrote along with Harry Higman is it and Gloria Brewer. The one example that you provide in this article is a Washington State parolee by the name of Maurice Clemens was involved with the murder of four police officers back in 2009 and your article says, “Still it’s unclear whether such a tragic complicated incident could have been prevented. It was understood that there was a need for greater information sharing between law enforcement and the community corrections.” Do you want to comment on that?
YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure, one thing I’d like to point out is that a lot of the challenges we have with information sharing exchanges is the cost and the scope of them. So one nice thing about this particular project, when we started it, is that we had a national focus in mind. We couldn’t be thinking in silos or in state to state or point to point exchanges. When we built this exchange, we said, “How can we get this information to all 50 states, get all 50 states sending and receiving these offender transfers so we can scale our officer safety, so that it is not just limited to certain jurisdictions?” So what we did is, what we had in mind with this exchange is, in the initial pilot is to build as much functionality as we can and then we’re basically in the process of rolling this out to other states and if states want to receive this information, they can do it at a very low cost. Basically all they’d have to provide is an internet connection and a server which would receive it and then they would be receiving these transfers and once they get them they can disseminate them to their local partners as they wish to do so. So we do have this national scope in mind and cost is a really important thing especially when we are looking to scale out to the entire country.
LEONARD SIPES: You know I have taken up so much of the program just trying to form a base line for the person listening to the program but let me do the final baseline issue, and we’re probably coming close to halfway through the program. Adam, The American Probation and Parole Association is the premier organization in the United States providing information for the rest of us in community supervision, providing us with information and research and guidance in terms of what good parole and probation, what state of the art parole and probation, what evidence parole and probation is correct?
ADAM MATZ: Yes.
LEONARD SIPES: Okay Yogesh, give me – you are with, you are an information sharing specialist for the National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing and you were also with SEARCH. So give me a sense as to what the National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing is, and then give me a sense as to what SEARCH is.
YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure, SEARCH is basically the National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing. We are a membership based organization and we have representatives from all 50 states and we are non profit and we have been around since 1969. So we have being doing justice information sharing when it was originally done with paper and pen or telephone and we have seen that all the way through to a lot of the advances that we have made with justice information sharing in technology. What we try to do is we try to provide local jurisdictions, states, even national public safety organizations with the tools to do justice information sharing: and that’s planning, design and implementation and support. So if you have a justice information sharing problem we are here to provide a solution basically from point A to point Z and in this specific exchange we partnered up with APPA to provide the technical resources to actually write the software which is doing the exchange here and to do it in such a way, since it is funded by federal grants, in a way that it can be reused in, for example, other exchanges.
At the time this exchange was being written there was also a sex offender exchange which is very similar that was being written where sex offenders move from one state to the other where there could be a notification in place for that or the Adam Walsh Act. So one of the great thing about this project is that not only are we allowing it to scale when we are adding different states to it, we have also created an infrastructure out there nationally so if states want to do information sharing projects in the future there is basically a cloud infrastructure out there. So they have a place to put their information exchanges and we are looking to expand that as other information sharing needs become available.
LEONARD SIPES: You know I go back an awfully long time. I have been involved in the criminal justice system for 45 years, for 35 years in terms of doing media related endeavors for the criminal justice system and I can remember SEARCH from the very beginning of my career and I can remember the American Probation and Parole Association from the very beginning of my career. So I just wanted to give the listeners a sense that I am talking, they are listening to representatives from two organizations that have been around for decades.
ADAM MATZ: Yeah.
LEONARD SIPES: Alright so we are more than half way through the program, are we, no. We are a minute before we get to the half way point, before I reintroduce you. So the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision is what, Yogesh, give me a very brief synopsis of that.
YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure, I’m actually going to throw that question over to Adam he has been very involved with that.
LEONARD SIPES: Yeah go ahead.
ADAM MATZ: So the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision, they obviously, there’s Interstate Compact officers in every state but there is also a sort primarily headquarters if you will that is also in Lexington, Kentucky. APPA partnered with ICAOS to develop this exchange. It is obviously to support their work. It is all the data we are talking about is ICAOS, ICAOS data.
LEONARD SIPES: Let’s stay away from acronyms again, if we could, for the general audience. The Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision, right?
ADAM MATZ: Yeah the Interstate Compact. Basically they are the ones that facilitate the transfers of probation and parolees across state lines.
LEONARD SIPES: Okay, and we are talking about, I said hundreds of thousands, I was wrong because I am looking at the article itself, we are talking about 150,000 transfers a year from one state to the other?
YOGESH CHAWLA: Yeah, and since there is such a volume of transfers 150,000 you know as we stated before, we are focusing just on the high risk offenders here.
LEONARD SIPES: Right okay let me reintroduce both of you because I find this to be a fascinating program. The concept of information sharing between parole and probation and corrections and law enforcement, we have two people. Back at our microphone Adam Matz, Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association. www.appa-net.org is the website for the American Probation and Parole Association. Yogesh Chawla is an information sharing specialist for the Nation Consortium for Justice Information Sharing or SEARCH www.search.org. Both Adam and Yogesh and two other people put together an article that is currently being considered for national publication talking about using information technology to share information about high risk offenders as they move from one state to the next. Again, with the idea that most of this information exchange does occur on a day to day basis between law enforcement and parole and probation agencies and correctional agencies and that happens automatically, but this is really exciting because what we have here with the Interstate Commission for Adult Offenders Supervision is the idea that we can eventually bring every state in the United States into this concept. It’s being field tested with the State of New York, bring every state in there. So all high risk offenders, when they are being transferred from one state to the other, they don’t fall through the cracks. Law enforcement is notified through something called a fusion center and that fusion center distributes that information to all other law enforcement agencies in the states correct.
ADAM MATZ: Yeah, that’s right and just to kind of chat on that a little bit. We are kind of using the term “high risk” but that is kind of used loosely. As I mentioned before there is no standardizes risk assessment across the country so I think probably the best way to refer to it would be “potentially high risk or potentially dangerous.”
LEONARD SIPES: Based upon the crime that they are being supervised for.
ADAM MATZ: Correct yes.
LEONARD SIPES: Okay. And so the goal of the information sharing is officer safety and public safety, right?
ADAM MATZ: That’s correct and it is also to encourage more partnerships, more collaboration between police and probation and parole. I also want to throw in real quick. This project is funded by the Bureau of Justice, funded by the Department of Justice and those incidents like the Maurice Clemmons case, those are kind of the incidents that help kind of bring this to the attention at a national level and that is really what kind of created the genesis for this kind of exchange and all this work that we are doing so I wanted to plug that in there too.
LEONARD SIPES: Now you have here NIEM, what does National Information EM stand for.
YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure you know in the technical arena we often run into lots of acronyms and one of the things that the US DOJ and the Bureau of Justice Assistance provided was something called the global reference architecture. Many times, as IT practitioners, it seems like we are speaking a language but then when we speak to each other we are also speaking a different language. And what we really saw a need for in the justice arena and in the information sharing arena just in general, was the need for standards and standardization and the Global Reference Architecture really provided that. One of the building blocks for that is called The National Information Exchange model and that is basically the vocabulary that we use to talk to each other. When we’re defining what an offender is, an offender obviously has a first name, a last name, an address that they are going from, an address they are going to and what the National Information Exchange model allows us to do is to package these up into, the language its built on it is called XML, some of the tech people out there might know that but it allows us to package this up and allows us to basically speak the same language.
So if computer A and computer B are talking to each other, they are both speaking with the same language and same vocabulary and what you can do with this is, for example, right now we are using this specific exchange for offender transfer notifications. However, if you wanted to use this same information in a different way you wouldn’t need to go and reprogram everything, you can say, “Hey, we have this offender transfer profile that we have developed here how else can we use it? Would we like to use it to create more statistics? Would we like to use this to, you know, for a web portal so people can go search around and see who is moving into their neighborhood, things like that?” When you use NIEM and you use the Global Reference Architecture the whole purpose of it is to reduce cost and to take one exchange that you write and make it applicable for multiple purposes. That way every time we need to do something new in IT we are not going back and asking for more money to write something new. So BJA has been very instrumental in leadership and developing the Global Reference Architecture and that was the building blocks for the exchange that we have developed here.
LEONARD SIPES: But that has always been the problem for SEARCH across the board, because you know, you are dealing with 50 states and in some of our information systems that we have created, it goes way beyond 50 states. It goes into every law enforcement agency, every parole and probation agency. So there has to be an architecture that is common to almost every jurisdiction out there and that they understand and can be properly maintained so the entire country can talk to each other instantaneously if necessary. I mean that is the heart and soul behind SEARCH, I would imagine throughout the decades, is building those architectures that work from one criminal justice agency to another.
YOGESH CHAWLA: Absolutely, absolutely, and that is really instrumental here. And you know a couple of things I want to point out. I just want to give the listeners here a concrete example of what we are talking about. When we’re exchanging this information, this information all goes over the internet so there is a certain level of security that we need. Obviously we want to use encryption so anything that goes across the wire, no one can read it. You know we don’t want, you know if you read about a lot of these credit card breaches and what not, you know a lot of this encrypted information gets out there. The other thing we want to do is we want to digitally sign every message so if somebody takes one little piece of the message, they try to change the offenders name or the risk profile, that message would get rejected. The other thing we do is we put a time stamp on a message so it is only valid for a very short period of time. Now if you look at these requirements that we have right here, trying to get everyone to decide on how to program these specific things would be very difficult to do unless we had a reference architecture. So the Reference Architecture provides us guidance and says hey, “If you want to time stamp your messages, this is how you would want to do it. If you want to encrypt your messages this is how you would do it. If you want to sign your messages this is how you would do it.”
LEONARD SIPES: got it.
YOGESH CHAWLA: And the nice thing about it, it’s built on already existing IT standards. So it provides us a clearing house, a place where we can look to say, “Okay here are our requirements. How do we do this in the justice arena?”
LEONARD SIPES: Adam so you are pilot testing this in the state of New York how is that pilot test been going
ADAM MATZ: The pilot test has been great. We implemented it, I believe it was September of last year, so September 2013. We only have had a few maybe technical hiccups but very minor little issues and basically it’s been automated for practically a year. We have been keeping tabs on basically how many notifications would go to other states if they were connected. So we have some data on that as well it sort of helps us priorities. One thing I want to mention too, with that pilot, in that we did do just a few small interviews with a couple of different jurisdictions in New York to kind of get a sense of how is the information is used, is it helpful and one of the things I will note is that most folks agree pretty unanimously that the information is great, it’s helpful. We mentioned a little bit about local partnerships and information being shared. Now in some cases that’s true. There is some of this information being shared already. What’s kind of interesting though, is from the comments I got, a lot of times that information was isolated to just that jurisdiction. What they like about this notification is they get information about people going across the state. Not only that, they get a little bit more information. So this information exchange includes pictures with it. Those are types of extra elements that they are not getting already at the local level. So not only is it great nationally but also builds on any sort of local information sharing.
LEONARD SIPES: And it’s important, again, because what we are talking about is a) expanding this from New York to every other states through, I am assuming, funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the US Department of Justice which is right up the street from me, and the possibility of using this for other endeavors, correct ? Or have we gone that far?
YOGESH CHAWLA: We’re currently in talks with four or five states right now who are really excited about this. And you know and when we brought up the existing pilot and the level of effort [INDISCERNIBLE 00:25:07] a lot of the states are really happy to hear that. Based off the work that we have done in New York we can basically just take what we have in New York and basically just drop it onto their server and they should be able to connect it at a very low cost and that allows us to scale the grant money that we have left as well and that was one of the advantages of using the Global Reference Architecture. So if there are any listeners out there who are working in local law enforcement or who work at a fusion center or are working in information sharing in a state you are looking for a very simple project, a very easy win and a very easy way to provide additional information to your local law enforcement for public safety, this would be a really good exchange at looking at joining since the cost is so low and since you can see results so quickly.
LEONARD SIPES: Well, I would image in terms of any information sharing across state lines, that they would automatically go to SEARCH considering the fact that SEARCH has been around for a decade. What else could the system is used for?
ADAM MATZ: Yeah, just to build on that a little bit. The Interstate Compact actually, right now the focus is obviously sharing information with law enforcement but the Interstate Compact may find other uses for this or other means of sharing information with other organizations like the courts and so on and so forth. So there might be more application for this for the Interstate Compact than what we are currently using it now even though our focus is fairly specific at the moment.
LEONARD SIPES: Uh huh. But I mean the idea of people at a, I’m sorry I don’t know how else to put it, at a certain risk level – I know we are not using an objective risk instrument to judge risk, but if you are transferring, if a person is transferred from Nabraska to Maryland and the person has a homicide charge, that sort of person is something that the State of Maryland is going to want to know about.
ADAM MATZ: Exactly, yes.
LEONARD SIPES: Okay, so the idea here is that instead of just going to Baltimore and Baltimore and the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation sharing that with Baltimore police well that offender can easily go across state, I mean county lines, four or five counties away and so that is the beauty of not just local information sharing between local police and local parole and probation officers, that is the beauty of sharing of it through the fusion center so the entire state is notified that George Smith, who was convicted of homicide but now he is going to be supervised in the state of Maryland – and we do want to do this by the way, for the casual person listening to this we do want people to go through the Interstate Compact and be transferred from one state to the other because we don’t want that person taking off on their own. We do want that person, if that person has a legitimate reason to be in that other state for family or for job or for whatever reason, if they have a legitimate reason for being in that other state we want them supervised. Thus the Interstate Compact, right?
ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and the other really nice thing about the way that this exchange is set up and the information is being shared is that along with each of those individuals, the information and it’s just the basic information about who they are and where they are located and what they, you know if there is gang affiliation and those kind of things; it doesn’t include all their background. It doesn’t include that. It is just very specific you know. Here is an individual who is coming in and here is where they are going. And it also includes the contact information for the supervising officer, if that’s a probation or parole officer which is great.
LEONARD SIPES: So they can get the information they need because if a county, I am going to use the state of Maryland again, if a county three counties away from Baltimore City where that person is going to live suddenly has, if a sex offender has been transferred and suddenly starts getting sex offender sort of crimes and they have no leads, maybe a call to that parole and probation agent asking for information about that person and does he have any contact with my particular county, may be a good call.
ADAM MATZ: Yeah, exactly. And that’s exactly what we are hoping that this exchange will do. It will make folks aware, so obviously increase situational awareness, but we really want to encourage that dialogue.
LEONARD SIPES: And dialogue is the heart and soul in terms of the exchange of information between law enforcement and corrections and parole and probation and you have got about five seconds. Right?
YOGESH CHAWLA: Yeah great and what we are really looking to do is just to get additional fusion centers and additional states connected. So once again if you represent a state and you would like to get this information, please go ahead and get in touch with us at either search.org or appa-net.org as well.
LEONARD SIPES: Okay Yogesh, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen we are doing a show today on information sharing between parole and probation corrections and law enforcement. Adam Matz and Yogesh Chawla has been by our microphones. We really appreciate both of you being here. Ladies and gentlemen we really appreciate you listening to DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate you criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.