Public safety technology has developed and improved exponentially in recent decades and has completely changed the way law enforcement agencies operate. Pen and paper systems for record keeping and dispatching have become obsolete in favor of computer-based systems either hosted by the agency or accessed through the cloud. This transition from the filing cabinet to the server has created countless opportunities for agencies to make the most of their information through data sharing.
Agencies in many communities across the United States are finding that an effective way to share data with one another is by sharing a single software system. For example, if a county sheriff’s office hosts a software system, nearby agencies such as dispatch centers, police departments, fire departments, and correctional facilities can join that system and utilize data entered by personnel from the host and each of the partner agencies. This arrangement promotes a smooth and efficient transfer of data from start to finish as each agency adds to and works from the same pool of real-time data. Efficient data sharing between agencies provides personnel with more comprehensive information on the people they come across in the field, which can lead to increased officer preparation and safety. It also provides agencies with more robust data for analytics, which allows command staff to learn about trends within their communities and determine where to best assign resources such as extra patrols at certain times or in certain neighborhoods. Data compiled from multiple agencies in an area can help management make more proactive decisions and engage with their public in a healthy, positive way that leads to effective improvements.
Another benefit of sharing a single software system between multiple agencies is that it is often more budget-friendly than if each agency were to purchase a separate system. By utilizing the same software systems, neighboring public safety agencies can avoid purchasing and maintaining unnecessary hardware. They can also share training and support resources, meaning they can make use of more advanced, robust technology that they would have otherwise been unable to afford or maintain.
Sharing a multi-jurisdictional software system allows agencies to share data more smoothly, which can lead to increased efficiency on all sides. Instead of requiring interfaces and separate logins between each agency’s databases, a shared system should contain a single database that every agency accesses and contributes to, with a single set of login credentials for each user.
This system of sharing information between agencies in multiple jurisdictions not only increases agency efficiency but can also help promote officer safety in the field. For example, a police officer could be conducting a routine traffic stop with an individual that their agency may not have dealt with before. Querying the shared database, the officer could learn that this person has a long record of past offenses with pending warrants in nearby towns, as well as a history of armed violence. The officer can then respond accordingly, with greater awareness and preparation, and call for backup if necessary.
Having a single, large pool of shared information also allows the agencies in the system to draw more complete and accurate analytics of the trends and patterns occurring within the larger community. Criminals do not usually keep to one agency’s jurisdiction, so compiling and analyzing all available data from the surrounding area provides law enforcement with a more comprehensive idea of what is happening in their jurisdiction and those nearby.
As with any software system, more users contributing to a database can increase the potential for human error. System administrators can combat this by ensuring that strong policies and procedures are in place and observed by every agency on the system. Thorough and regular training is vital to both maintaining the integrity of the database and ensuring that every agency is getting the greatest value and efficiency possible from the software they are using. In addition, agencies should look for a system that provides data identity retention and user-defined security privileges for each agency. This ensures that each user has access to the critical data they need to perform their duties, without forfeiting data security.
Sharing a single software system has proven to be an effective method of data sharing for agencies across the country. It also provides personnel from each of the agencies with a more collaborative environment and mindset than if each was using a separate software system and database, especially if those systems come from multiple software vendors. This environment of shared knowledge and ideas promotes open communication and a sense of teamwork between agencies. Because everyone is using the same tools to do their jobs, they become a community of users who can work together and share ideas to improve their software experience.
About the Author
Jessica Barker is a marketing writer for Spillman Technologies, a Motorola Solutions Company, which provides public safety software specializing in multi-jurisdictional systems.