In an effort to expand its information sharing capabilities, the Maine State Police (MSP) sought assistance in implementing an incident reporting process that all law enforcement agencies throughout the state could use. Concurrently, the Cumberland County (Portland) District Attorney and the Maine District Attorneys Technical Services (MEDATS) office sought a technical solution that would allow the county’s law enforcement agencies to electronically refer cases to the district attorney. Through the Maine Justice Information Sharing Architecture Steering Committee (MJISA), Maine justice agencies continually collaborate and coordinate information sharing efforts and technology projects. Through this committee, MSP and MEDATS recognized the commonalities of the two projects and agreed to develop a common information sharing infrastructure to complete both initiatives. To achieve its justice information sharing goals, MSP relied upon technical assistance provided by SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing and Statistics. SEARCH is a national, nonprofit membership organization created by and for the states that seeks to identify and solve the information management and sharing challenges of state, local, and tribal agencies. SEARCH’s Information Sharing Programs help justice and public safety practitioners and organizations at all levels of government to improve their use of technology, information sharing capabilities, and voice and data interoperability in mission-critical projects and initiatives.
Summary of the Technical Assistance
Under the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Justice Information Sharing Initiative, MSP received grant funding to support the development of an incident reporting process that all law enforcement agencies throughout the State of Maine could adopt. The purpose of the grant was to promote the use of the Global Reference Architecture (GRA) and demonstrate the benefits of using this information exchange solution. The GRA is designed to cut 80 percent of implementation time and costs for state and local justice agencies through reuse of established practices in IT architecture and design. In order to implement this solution, MSP worked with SEARCH. SEARCH helped the MSP to define the requirements for the information exchanges and to develop the GRA information sharing components. MSP staff wrote the program to extract data from their Records Management System (RMS). Once the data was passed to Maine’s information sharing environment, SEARCH transformed the data into a National Information Exchange Model (NIEM)-conformant exchange. Once NIEM-conformant, the data could be routed to the appropriate destination, whether it be the FBI’s National Data Exchange System (N-DEx), the local district attorney, or both. For the data routed to N-Dex, SEARCH transformed the data to meet N-DEx requirements and called the N-DEx service hosted by the FBI over the Internet. In collaboration with the Maine District Attorneys, SEARCH worked with MEDATS to transform and deliver data into the format they required. MEDATS also developed the capability to extract data from three other RMSs used by multiple law enforcement agencies in Cumberland County (Portland); SEARCH then implemented the connection to Maine’s GRA information sharing environment. This enabled the law enforcement agencies and District Attorney’s Office in Cumberland County to take advantage of and leverage the same information sharing infrastructure. Since MSP and MEDATS agreed to collaborate and use the common MJISA infrastructure to complete both of their initiatives, Maine law enforcement agencies now have the option to submit incident records to N-DEx, refer cases to their local district attorney, or both using the same electronic exchange and infrastructure. Each agency maintains responsibility for determining what data is shared, when, and with whom. This new process results in significant benefits to both district attorneys and law enforcement agencies across the state. For law enforcement, the new system means these agencies can now view incident reports from other agencies that submit incident data to N-DEx. For the district attorneys, this means that the amount of time required to enter initial case information is dramatically reduced and the likelihood of making data entry errors significantly decreases. In a time when greater emphasis is placed on the role of data in criminal justice, this engagement demonstrates the role that technical assistance — like that provided by SEARCH — can play in developing and expanding information sharing capabilities. The MSP and SEARCH’s use of established promising practices and standards in IT architecture and design helped reduce implementation time and costs, enhance data consistency, and maximize the number of agencies that are able to leverage incident reporting data. For more information regarding SEARCH or the justice information sharing work in Maine, 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 BJANTTAC@ojp.usdoj.gov. National Association for Justice Information Sharing Systems Newsletter: Maine Justice Agencies Implement N-DEx and eReferral Data Exchanges