Criminal Justice Information Sharing-NCJA

Criminal Justice Information Sharing-NCJA

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

Radio Show available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/11/criminal-justice-information-sharing-ncja/

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety; I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen today we’re doing a show on the Mid-Atlantic Information Sharing Initiative, brought to us by the National Criminal Justice Association, the voice of the nation’s public safety community at www.ncja.org. In essence what we’re going to be talking about today is information sharing between states, to improve public safety, to improve officer safety. By our microphones today we have Tammy Woodhams, she is a senior staff associate with the National Criminal Justice Association, we have Mannone Butler Executive Director of the DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, and we have Ed Parker, Deputy Director of Operations for the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. To Tammy, and Mannone and Ed, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Tammy Woodhams: Thank you.

Mannone Butler: Thank you.

Ed Parker: Hi.

Len Sipes: I really appreciate you guys being here, because information sharing is one of the hardest things that we within the criminal justice system do, brings immense difficulties, and I’m going to read very quickly from a report sent by the National Criminal Justice Association.

Over the past few years leaders from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia have been working the share information on offenders who move freely across jurisdictional boundaries to this end. These four jurisdictions form the Mid Atlantic Regional Information Consortium to secure justice information systems. These four jurisdictions as well as Virginia, New York, now exchange arrest information with Maryland to identify offenders who are on parole and probation who are arrested outside of that jurisdiction. Given the density and mobility of the offender populations in these jurisdictions, the sharing of justice information was deemed critical to the Administration of Justice and Public Safety, in this multi-state region.

The average person I think, and I’m going to start off with you Tammy, would believe that this is something that we do all the time. They watch a lot of television, and they see a lot of criminal justice people, on television shows, fictional television shows, sharing an immense amount of information with everybody. Is that the way it really works?

Tammy Woodhams: No it doesn’t, we fondly call this the CSI Effect. We wish it were that way, and we wish we could share information, and solve crimes as quickly as they’re able to in a 45 minute television show, but in reality it just doesn’t happen like that. The states that we work with have various information sharing at many, many levels, and we through NCJA have a grant to help advance information sharing with the states. That’s what we’ve done over the course of the last couple of years, to work with the nearest states as they move forward with their efforts.

Len Sipes: Well the National Criminal Justice Association, and again they’ve been around as long as I’ve been around in the criminal justice system, which is 45 years. You basically bring the states and jurisdictions, and county, and cities together to share information with each other. You’re essentially the information sharing experts within the criminal justice system, within the United States correct?

Tammy Woodhams: Right and we do that, we convene stakeholders from all across the country, justice leaders, practitioners and researchers, to advance information sharing and best practices. One of the specific areas that we’re working on is in the justice information sharing field. Specific to public safety.

Len Sipes: But we’re going to start off with one example, and that is, in, you know, I represent a parole and probation, federal parole and probation agency here in Washington DC. You go across the line in Maryland, you go across Southern Avenue, it’s right there, I mean it’s just walking across the street, and you’re in an entirely different jurisdiction. At one point, you know, people who were arrested in Maryland may not necessarily show up on our radar screen, what we do, is go in as a parole and probation agency, we do go in periodically and take a look at the National Crime Information Center system to see if somebody has been arrested. We now have a protocol in place where if the person’s arrested in Maryland, a person’s arrested in Virginia, we’re immediately notified. Ed Parker, Deputy Director of Operations for the Maryland Governor’s Office in Crime Control and Prevention, essentially that’s what is flowing through your state, the surrounding states feed information to you about parolees and probationers who have been arrested, and you disseminate it to everybody else?

Ed Parker: Yes Len that’s absolutely correct, and just to go back briefly and touch on a point that you made earlier. I think that there is, you know, a widespread belief and assumption that this type of information is seamlessly shared and coordinated, on a routine basis. It really is not, unfortunately there are a lot of information silos that need to be broken down. If, at least in my opinion, we are to be as effective as we can be in reducing crime, and supervising violent offenders. That’s a challenge both inside your own state, and it becomes even more problematic, as you can well imagine, when we’re talking about sharing information across jurisdictional boundaries, but to get back to your question about the arrests. One of the things that we learned, starting back in 2007, in conversations with our counterparts in Washington, is that a lot of offenders under supervision here in Maryland, were being arrested in Washington DC. And a lot of offenders under community based supervision, in DC, were being arrested here in Maryland. The problem was that offenders were essentially on the honor system to tell us about those new arrests and obviously it wasn’t working out very well for us. So we needed to come up with another tool. The solution that we came up with, was to initially exchange a daily arrest feed with our counterparts in Washington DC, and to match that arrest data against our parole and probation supervision files. If there’s a match between an arrest in Washington and somebody under parole or probation supervision in Maryland, an email alert is automatically sent out to the supervising agent, so that appropriate action can be taken. To just real quickly put this into some kind of context or perspective, since we started this process with, initially with Washington DC and now with Virginia, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, we’ve been able to identify over 15,000 offenders under parole and probation supervision in Maryland, that were arrested outside the jurisdiction.

Len Sipes: Now that’s amazing, that is absolutely amazing. 15,000 individuals arrested outside of the state of Maryland that you would have been under the honor system, before this information sharing exchange was in place. If they had lied to you, you wouldn’t know unless the parole and probation agent in the state of Maryland ran a National Crime Information Center check?

Ed Parker: That’s exactly correct, I mean theoretically yes it would have been possible to run a record check each and every morning, on every supervisee. But Len as you know through your own experience, that’s a practical impossibility.

Len Sipes: Yes you can’t do that. I understand that, but I mean this is the heart and soul in terms of protecting public safety, because you could have, I mean it’s a stereotypical example. But you could have a sex offender who basically says, you know, I’m pretty well supervised in Washington DC, I think I’ll do my crimes in Maryland, and with the idea that if he comes into contact with the criminal justice system or gets arrested. He thinks that he may get away with it, because his crimes were in Baltimore and not in the District of Columbia. But now what we’re saying is that he can’t, if he comes into contact with the criminal justice system, if he’s arrested, everybody else knows about it instantaneously.

Ed Parker: Yes correct.

Len Sipes: Right, Mannone Butler, Executive Director of the DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Mannone you and I have known each other for quite some time. Your point is, has always been that we have to share information beyond the District of Columbia, we’re a city in essence. We I know, within the District of Columbia feel that we are a state, but we are a city, and at the same time we’re surrounded by Virginia, we’re surrounded by Maryland, Pennsylvania is a hop skip and jump away. We’ve got people commuting every day from West Virginia into Washington DC. So offenders being mobile, they can go any place, information sharing is a really important goal of the DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Mannone Butler: Absolutely critical Len, as you know working with our partners here in the district, it’s been one of our priorities, we are unique in that we’re working with both federal and local partners. So our partners have come to the table understanding, and also acknowledging that the fact that we have to work through as Ed put it, you know, through information sharing silo. So justice, our justice information system was really designed with that in mind. So locally the goal is to share information and work towards breaking through information sharing silos, but with MARIS this is really the opportunity to cross borders. We are a hop skip and a jump across, away from Maryland. Pennsylvania is right down the 95 Corridor, so it’s critical for us to really figure out how to more effectively and efficiently share information, in as real time as possible, so that we can address these Criminal Justice issues that are right in front of us. So working with our partners in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, who all really recognize the importance of the issue, we really do think that we’re making a lot of headway. But we also are real clear about some of the challenges that are not uncommon within a jurisdiction. We are now facing those things, the policy issues and the like, that have come up when we’re talking about trying to address information sharing, outside of our jurisdictions as well.

Len Sipes: I do want to remind our listeners that I think Mannone and the other people who have been in charge of the DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, are probably best suited for the State Department, after they have done their gig here in the District of Columbia. Because Mannone has to deal with my agency, which is a federal agency and the courts have been federalized, the prosecuting attorney has been federalized, the Public Offenders Office has been federalized. You combine that with a local DC police department, a local juvenile initiative, again at the DC level, and the jail which is the District of Columbia. So you have this combination of federal agencies and District of Columbia agencies, and now, you bring into the mix, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, the other states, and that becomes extraordinarily complex in terms of keeping everybody happy, and keeping information systems up and running. So Mannone you’ve got a real task on your hands.

Mannone Butler: Yes but you know I think at the end of the day, there’s some real common goals, and it really is to make sure that we’re focusing on public safety. That’s really our north star, so appreciating the fact that we have different audiences and I share this with our partners in Pennsylvania, in Maryland, and in Delaware, and we’ve been meeting. So folks understand that, you know, DC we have our unique, our composition is unique, but the reality is that at the end of the day we want to make sure that the public is safe. Information sharing is critical to get us there, so there are some real nuances to the information sharing realities that we’ve embarked upon with this project specifically. So we can’t be deterred by the jurisdictional issues that come up, internally or externally to be certain.

Len Sipes: I think Mannone you’re being wonderfully diplomatic and — but I’ll go over to Tammy Woodhams of the National Criminal Justice Association. Something before we hit the record button, Ed mentioned, Ed Parker from the state of Maryland, mentioned that look, you know, we’re the Criminal Justice system, we’ve been pretty secretive and we’ve been criticized after the events of 9/11 for not sharing information. We have basically kept all this information to ourselves, so I do, in the second half of the show want to get onto to the other parts of information sharing in terms of the Mid-Atlantic Information Sharing Initiative, but that’s true correct Tammy? That we traditionally have not been embracing of each other?

Tammy Woodhams: Oh definitely and you have the separation of powers that are involved in that. You have turf issues and traditionally in the criminal justice system, a sheriff did not want to necessarily share his information with the prosecuting attorney’s office, or the courts didn’t want to share that information. I think that, they’ve been very protective of that information, so the fact that Mannone has been able to pull off, getting all her partners together and willing to share information, really bodes well for Washington DC and with Maryland, and Delaware, and Pennsylvania and all of their stakeholders, who are willing to share. A lot of it really boils back down to traditional turf issues that have been invited [PH 00:14:29] in the criminal justice system for years.

Len Sipes: Well also there are information sharing issues in terms of the technology that everybody can embrace, and everybody can share information on. So it’s just not a matter of turf it’s a matter of implanting the right technology, the right information sharing technology, so everybody is not just onboard philosophically, but onboard technologically, correct?

Tammy Woodhams: Right and for many years the technology wasn’t there to be able to share, and in recent years, the Federal Government has been making a big push to encourage the adoption of the National Justice Information Caring Standards and Tools for their global advisory committee and they have come up with information caring standards, such as the National Information Exchange Model, Global Reference Architecture, Global Federated ID and Privileged Management. In essence a lot of acronyms and basically they boil down to the ability to be able to guide, and provide tools to allow that information sharing to occur. Promote cross boundary information sharing as well.

Len Sipes: Let me reintroduce everybody, because we’re right at the halfway point, and I’ll get back to you just momentarily. Ladies and gentlemen we’re doing a show today on the Mid-Atlantic Information Sharing Initiative, but we’re really talking about information sharing within the criminal justice system. The show is produced today by the National Criminal Justice Association, www.ncja.org our guests today are Tammy Woodhams, senior staff associate for the National Criminal Justice Association, Mannone Butler, Executive Director, DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Ed Parker, Deputy Director of Operations for the Maryland Office, Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, Ed go ahead with your point please.

Ed Parker: Well Len I was just going to point out, we were talking before about some of the barriers to establishing effective information sharing protocols. One of the issues that came up was technology. I just wanted to point out, that it’s always been my experience that the technology barriers are the easiest ones to overcome. There’s always some very smart, you know, IT person out there who can work out a technological solution to almost any problem. But the policy issues in my opinion are far more challenging to overcome when you’re doing something like we’ve been trying to do over the last several years. Again, breaking down that culture of secrecy, addressing the policy and potential legal issues involved. Who can access what, and under what circumstances for example. The security concerns, controlling access to make sure that the inappropriate people don’t have access to sensitive information. Making sure that audit trails are built in, so if something does go wrong, we can track back and figure out who accessed what and when. Then the privacy issues to try to make sure that we are protecting the privacy of citizens so that no sensitive information is shared inappropriately with anybody, including law enforcement.

Mannone Butler: And Ed has actually just, I’m sorry, Ed really just has outlined I think critical areas for us as we again, we focus within your jurisdictions on issues around information sharing, those are hallmark issues for us. Now you’re talking about policy and jurisdictional lines, they are then, they become even more critical because we’re talking about policy issues that have implications that, here before, they may not even have been mapped out. So I think that we really, the technology piece oftentimes heard from our IT folks in my office, in the district, we can take care of the technology, it really is making sure we have the business, the privacy, the policy, issues mapped out. That’s really where the rubber meets the road.

Len Sipes: Well that’s difficult, and it’s fairly complex, I guess I just keep going back, you know, what I always try to phone a couple of people before doing shows. One person was, telling me, he said, you know you want NCIS, you watch all these television shows and you have the sense that there’s information flowing. There’s information sharing, a portion of it is free flowing, it happens every day, it’s seamless and there really are no issues. In reality we’re just beginning to set up these technological and legal, and ethical protocols between states, we’re just starting this movement to be sure that the right information is shared, and that it’s ethical, and legal, and that we have the technical pieces in place. We’re just beginning this process, am I right or wrong?

Ed Parker: I think you’re absolutely right Len.

Mannone Butler: Yes.

Len Sipes: Let’s talk about some of the things that we are talking about because somebody listening to this program is going to go, okay I get it, the offender, A who is being supervised in Washington DC, goes to the state of Maryland, goes to Pennsylvania, goes to Virginia, goes to Delaware and then DC wants to know whether or not he’s been arrested. Fine I’ll give you that, but in this day and age of privacy concerns, I just want to give people a sense as to what else that we’re talking about. There’s law enforcement data, there’s intelligence data, in some cases a license plate recognition, fusion centers, where law enforcement and correctional people get together and share information, and make sure that the right information is being transferred from one jurisdiction to another. Scrap metal, pawn and secondary property databases, I mean these are all some of the things that I’m reading from in terms of the executive summary of the report on the Mid-Atlantic Information Sharing Initiative. So something as simple as, somebody steals a tremendous amount of metal, and crosses the state line to sell it, it would be nice for that police department in Pennsylvania to be able to say, ah it went into Virginia, and that’s where they sold it, and now we can follow up. I mean that’s pretty commonsensical stuff.

Ed Parker: Absolutely Len, I mean it would be critical to know that someone with a Pennsylvania address is pawning materials in another jurisdiction. It would also be interesting to note frequent pawners, if people are going to multiple pawn shops in a relative short period of time, which maybe innocent, but then again it could be indicative of criminal activity. So it’s a perfect example of why we should share yes.

Len Sipes: You know offenders float, people involved in crime, are going to float from one jurisdiction to another. Especially when you’ve got — you know you can go from the state of Maryland to the District of Columbia, into the state of Virginia and what, Mannone, 15, 20 minutes?

Mannone Butler: That’s right.

Len Sipes: So there has to be information sharing.

Mannone Butler: Yes there has to be information sharing, and so we talked about some of the challenges, but I also want to just highlight that as we’re going through this process for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Information Sharing Project, we also are really in the process of identifying, so what does it mean, what are the policies that you have within your own jurisdiction? That’s really critical and we want, we can’t lose sight of, you know, Ed mentioned privacy. We can’t lose sight of some real practical issues, the goal is to ensure public safety, right?

Len Sipes: Right.

Mannone Butler: But we also need to be real clear about what it means when we’re talking about sharing information. So each of our respective portals, our IT systems have rules of the road if you will. So part of the work here is mapping our systems so that the rules of each jurisdiction, can be followed in a way that really is appropriate. So that is no small feat, we’re not going to be deterred by that, but we want to make sure that folks really understand, that that work is something that also has to be done. You’re balancing our public safety with privacy, the information sharing piece is something that we can’t lose in this conversation.

Len Sipes: And the Federal Law to remind everybody, we being a federal agency, in terms of medical information, psychological information, that is protected, it’s protected by the Federal Privacy Act, which means that I can sit down with the police department in the metropolitan police department in Washington DC. Or the Maryland State Police, or the Virginia State Police, and discuss this offender, and what he’s doing right, and what he’s doing wrong. But there are certain things by Federal Law we cannot violate, and there’s certain information that we cannot transmit. So that’s what you’re talking about Mannone correct?

Mannone Butler: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: And whether people like it or not, that is the Federal Privacy Act is something, I mean we’re a law enforcement agencies, we’re supposed to uphold the law. So for those people out there listening to this, and saying well gee this is just another example of big government sharing information on individuals. We take those privacy concerns very seriously, Ed?

Mannone Butler: And it really does —

Ed Parker: Yes?

Mannone Butler: — I’m sorry it just goes to the purpose of this really for us is to figure out, and it’s kind of you’re threading that needle. How do we get to sharing information as we started this conversation in a way, that really makes sense for all our jurisdictions. So we can address the information that’s out there, and so that we can again protect the public. But in the same token there are basic policy and privacy considerations that are federal in nature, but there are also some local jurisdictions, or local laws that we also have to be mindful of, and that’s a process that we have to navigate as well.

Len Sipes: But if you’ve got somebody who is considering an act of terrorism, you want that information shared with the state that it happens to be right next door to you. So there are all sorts of benefits to making sure that Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and all the other states involved in the Mid-Atlantic Information Sharing Initiative, that we are sure to share the right information with the right people.

Ed Parker: Len, you’re absolutely right Len, I mean in this day and age, we have more information available to law enforcement and public safety agencies, than we’ve ever had in history. You’ve been in this business a long time, and so have I, and the technological advances that we’ve made recently are just phenomenal. I mean, to give you an example, we have our law enforcement, or criminal justice dashboard in Maryland. It’s a web based data consolidation tool that’s accessible to anyone with a valid NCIC user ID and password. It enables a person with the appropriate credentials to search information from over 115 different data sources, but Pennsylvania has a similar system, Delaware has a similar system, their Deljis System. The district has a similar system, their Justice System, but linking all these systems together to share information in a seamless way, is challenging and Mannone just pointed out, one of the big challenges that there are legal differences between the laws that govern DC, and the laws that govern Maryland, and the laws that govern Pennsylvania and Delaware for example. So when we first started embarking down this road, we finally came to the realization that we were not going to be able to share everything with everybody. Instead each jurisdiction was just going to have to make available the information that it could make available, pursuant to their own policies and laws. That’s fine, it’s a start, and we can build on that.

Len Sipes: Now somebody has to coordinate all this, somebody has to bring everybody together, and again Tammy that would be the role of the National Criminal Justice Association. I’m assuming that somewhere along the line, the Department of Justice, through probably the Bureau of Justice Assistance is involved in this correct?

Tammy Woodhams: Yes correct. DJA funded, NCJA to serve as a convener, and advance the information sharing efforts throughout the country. We’re working closely with MARIS, to staff the meetings, bring them together, track what’s going on, we have bi-weekly calls with the technical team for MARIS. Document all of that and track the decisions that are made along the way. So we’ll be hosting a MARIS meeting in the near future in Baltimore to sign up a government structure for MARIS. We provide that guidance, we also bring in other training and technical assistants provided to help us move this along, and ensure the implementation and standards along the way.

Len Sipes: Well we’ve got just about a minute left, anybody want to add in on this, because we could — just license plate recognition, if there is a license tag wanted by Pennsylvania, and they’ve just abducted a child, and they’re found in Virginia, again that’s yet another example, when I’m taking a look at your executive summary, as to the power of information sharing. Of getting that information back to the state of Pennsylvania immediately.

Ed Parker: Len you just hit the nail on the head, it’s immediate access to the information. If the detective working that case that you just described in Pennsylvania, has to wait until nine o’clock the next morning to pick up the telephone and call somebody in Maryland, or the District or Delaware to get the information. It’s not very effective, but instead if a search, an automated search can be launched, a federated search against all of our jurisdictional databases, to pull back that information instantaneously. Then that’s a real accomplishment for all of us that are involved in trying to reduce crime and improve public safety.

Len Sipes: The state of Pennsylvania could say to the state of Virginia, don’t stop that car, follow them, and lead us to where we believe that other children are held. So that information flow could be just operational, it could be conclusion or it could be ongoing.

Ed Parker: Yes.

Len Sipes: Alright so, I really do appreciate all three of you being here by our microphones today, because I think this whole concept of information sharing is so important to the criminal justice system. Tammy Woodhams, senior staff associate National Criminal Justice Association, Mannone Butler, Executive Director of DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, and Ed Parker, Deputy Director of Operations for the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your compliments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

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