July | August 2014

 

 

 


Maryland Dashboard Brings
Information Together for Law Enforcement

By Mary Branham, CSG Managing Editor
Maryland’s criminal justice system was a system by name, but not operationally; it consisted of information silos.
“If you were an officer on the street and you had to make a decision about an offender and what risk they posed to public safety, because of the situation we were in, law enforcement and prosecutors were forced to make gut-driven decisions and not data-driven decisions,” said Virginia Geckler, chief of policy research and training in the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.
That changed when Gov. Martin O’Malley took office in 2008. The state implemented a Criminal Justice Dashboard to integrate those silos. Maryland’s Security Integration Initiative is one of eight national winners of The Council of State Governments’ Innovations Awards that will be recognized during the CSG National Conference and North American Summit Oct. 20-23 in Bellevue, Wash.
In three years, the Dashboard has become Maryland’s Web-based clearinghouse of state criminal justice data and tools. When criminal justice users log into the system—they must have an existing National Crime Information Center account—they gain access to 40 different state and national agencies and 110 databases that pulls information together for them, said Ron Brothers, chief information officer for Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Some participating agencies are traditional in the criminal justice system, such as parole and probation files, the Maryland criminal justice system and the Department of Juvenile Services. Others are nontraditional sources like Health and Mental Hygiene, Labor and Licensing, Social Security and any DNA data the state has.
“It really gives you a broad picture of what the state knows about these offenders,” said Geckler.
The Dashboard pulls the information from existing agency data, making it easy for agencies to participate, Brothers said. Since the Dashboard doesn’t store information, it is updated as agencies update their information.
“What the users see is information that’s current,” he said. “It’s not an hour hold; it’s not a week old. It’s actually real time live data.”
Geckler calls the database “a one-stop shop” for everything law enforcement might need on an offender.
“They have to make really quick decisions out there and this puts everything real-time at their fingertips,” she said.
That’s a benefit Michael Pristoop, chief of the Annapolis Department, touts as well.
“Dashboard is an effective, user-friendly tool for law enforcement. The information is timely and readily accessible,” he said. “Dashboard is considered a go to resource for the Annapolis Police Department to assist with ongoing investigations.”
Maryland is pursuing cooperation with law enforcement agencies in other states and has an agreement with the District of Columbia law enforcement agencies that allows District police access to the database and provides Maryland with District information.
“Crime doesn’t know borders,” said Geckler. “The more data we can share on this portal, the more valuable the tool.”
Pristoop said the Dashboard gives officers another tool to ensure they are making Maryland safe.
“Access to warrant information is invaluable to the law enforcement community. Utilizing Dashboard allows the Annapolis Police Department to access warrant information on wanted subjects for other jurisdictions,” he said.
Neighboring states--including Delaware, Virginia and Pennsylvania--have shown interest in the system, Brothers said. Geckler said Maryland is happy to share information on the development of the tool and believes it can have national applicability.
“It makes all the difference when you have less money and less resources to take what you have and make it better for your stakeholders,” Geckler said. “Our states need to work together on an integrated system because we have data that matters to public safety statewide and nationally.”

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