CONNECT South Dakota: A Justice Information Sharing Success Story


South Dakota boasts 75 police departments and 65 county sheriffs to govern the population of over 824,000 citizens. Within large population jurisdictions in South Dakota, there were highly robust and highly-managed record management systems. However, there also existed very small departments with only one or two officers to cover the entire county. With such a broad population governed by numerous police departments and sheriffs, South Dakota suffered from a number of obstacles to information sharing. There were a number of records management and jail management systems in place; however, they didn’t adequately share and link relevant information. The information gathered was stored in silos, preventing other law enforcement agencies from accessing critical information. In addition, the process for conducting investigative searches for suspect information within other agencies was time intensive; law enforcement officials lacked the ability to quickly cross reference and pull suspect data. Finally, there was no security standard for personally identifiable information, resulting in a lack of confidential information exchange and storage. The challenge South Dakota faced was how to ensure that it was able to benefit from enhanced access to information, while also maintaining confidentiality of citizen personal information.

Summary of the CONNECT South Dakota Engagement

With funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and technical assistance provided by the IJIS Institute, South Dakota embarked on revolutionizing its law enforcement information sharing systems. With the great disparity in the size of police departments across South Dakota comes a great disparity in the way the departments stored and organized their information. The grant provided by BJA enabled South Dakota to build the servers and licenses that would serve as the backbone of CONNECT South Dakota. The CONNECT South Dakota engagement sought to build upon this foundation to enhance the information sharing capabilities across law enforcement agencies, regardless of these disparate geographic locations or systems. In order to ensure buy-in from law enforcement executives and agencies from across South Dakota, it was critical to incorporate key components such as the development of a governance board, the ability to maintain local control, and the preservation of information security. Under the leadership of the Division of Criminal Investigation Director Bryan Gortmaker, the governance body incorporated state, local, and city law enforcement; sheriffs’ offices; and a project management team to ensure that the decisions and actions of CONNECT South Dakota were supported by all partners and stakeholders involved. Further, while agencies received minimum standards for reporting, they maintained the ability to decide how much additional information to submit. To protect information, each agency that submitted incident report information would act as the “owner” of that information – meaning information shared to the system could not be released by another agency without the permission of the originating agency. Also critical to the success of CONNECT South Dakota was the technical assistance provided by the IJIS Institute. The IJIS Institute provided support in refining the vision and operational capacity of the CONNECT South Dakota project and defining the best platform for operational use by local law enforcement. In addition, the IJIS Institute provided guidance on items that should be considered in the procurement process and supported the development of a project plan and schedule of activities. In conjunction with this technical assistance, planning commenced to define the policy and data elements necessitated to support the CONNECT South Dakota project. The leaders of CONNECT South Dakota adopted standards from the Department of Justice Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (Global) to determine the minimum data field elements a user would be required to complete to ensure that low-quality data was not entered into the system. To ensure the protection of citizen privacy and civil rights, representatives from the National Governors Association and the Institute for Intergovernmental Research assisted South Dakota in the development of privacy policies and line officer training. The success of the CONNECT South Dakota project was dependent upon the adoption and implementation of technology enhancements to facilitate the exchange and standardization of information. The information systems relied on the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) to standardize data exchanges and the Global Federated Identity and Privilege Management (GFIPM) provided by Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) to offer a secure log-in environment. The new program and standards allowed agencies in South Dakota to accomplish its intended objective to connect with the Law Enforcement National Data Exchange (N-DEx), an FBI information sharing tool. Adherence to these systems and standards was imperative to build a robust information sharing environment that maintained information integrity and security. CONNECT South Dakota provides a model that exemplifies a state’s successful use of federal funding to engage in a project that serves as a by practitioner, for practitioner reference to which solutions work. While much progress has been achieved, the work of CONNECT South Dakota is not complete. The project is now looking towards phase two of implementation which includes reaching smaller agencies without existing record management systems; incorporating the capability to submit images and photos; including additional fields to the incident report; and adopting an email and SMS notification system for officers. In addition to these enhancements, it is the hope of CONNECT South Dakota to add additional partners and components of the state’s justice system to support the continuous evolution of information sharing within South Dakota. Eight agencies are already undergoing the process of signing agreements, connecting their record management systems, and testing report submissions. As Sheriff Mike Milstead of South Dakota states, “CONNECT South Dakota is becoming much more than a technical solution to improve information sharing; it has become an overarching umbrella of services, policies, and technology that fosters a greatly improved information sharing environment.” For more information regarding the CONNECT South Dakota project, please click on the link below. To submit the work of your organization or jurisdiction for consideration to be featured in a future TTA Spotlight, please email CONNECT South Dakota JISP Webinar