A Valley-wide database sharing system for police agencies moved one step closer to becoming reality Tuesday after 70 law enforcement officers met with Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley to kick-start the process.
The initial meeting was more of an information-sharing session, but those in attendance like the chances of developing such a database.
“It’s an issue that’s a concern to all of law enforcement,” said Leesa Berens Morrison, special assistant for Immigration and Border Protection. “The meeting was not about creating a new intelligence database, but enhancing the ones law enforcement agencies now have and what other programs some agencies have in place can offer to other ones.”
Law enforcement agencies have used numerous computer programs to investigate crimes, research a suspect’s criminal history and identify threats in a community. But those independent databases have never been fully compatible with one another, making information sharing between agencies difficult. A shared database would improve cooperation among law enforcement agencies, allow police to more easily spot trends affecting multiple agencies or cross-reference individuals who might also be on the radar in other police databases in Arizona.
When Romley returned to the Maricopa County Attorney’s office earlier this year, he started putting the wheels in motion for implementing such a database, one that could be shared by agencies throughout the Valley and would aid in prosecution. Although the plan for such a shared database system is in what Romley said are the “embryonic stages,” he envisions it at first as Valleywide, and possibly progressing to a statewide system before going national.
Romley told the Tribune on Tuesday that the meeting to begin organizing a strategic plan went well, and that police chiefs from around the Valley recognize the value of a tool that would allow officers to log in and have information at their fingertips.
“There are so many databases out there, officers want to be able to get into one portal for information,” Romley said. “Technology capabilities have improved immensely over the years, the real future is in databases when it comes to helping solve crimes quicker. Everyone knows the value of having an intelligence sharing system. the meeting was a baby step, but a monumental step forward.”
One example Romley cited was the East Valley Gang and Criminal Fusion Center that consists of law enforcement agencies throught the East Valley such as the Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert and Scottsdale police departments sharing information through having all of their police reports in a database for investigative purposes. But if another crime fusion center in the Valley is not using the same computer software as one in the East Valley, it would make it difficult if not impossible to share databases.
Another example is a patrol officer looking up information on a crime suspect from inside his vehicle. The quicker he can get information on a suspect by possibly looking up information on the Department of Corrections website, the better, Romley said.
“There’s some real potential in this if we do this right,” Romley said. “We don’t want just one central pot of information, but maintain the ones we have and be able to share them. It would take some time, but it would make it all seamless and simple.”
Tuesday’s meeting was the first after Romley sent out invitations to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies three weeks ago, and a second meeting will be held next month, according Berens Morrison.
“Everybody is working on the best methodology for intel and intelligence sharing so officers are safe on the streets and receiving information as fast as they can,” Berens Morrison said. “It was a great meeting. A lot of different views were discussed.”