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FOCUS Three Tips to Master Interoperability

Best of Breed Versus Top Product Many agencies make purchasing decisions based on trying to acquire the absolute best piece of software for each appli- cation area. While this might indicate a high-performance system, if each of those applications can’t communicate ef- fectively, the system as a whole will likely suffer. A CAD system that offers highly customizable GPS, data entry and communications modules—or is the best in breed—is highly desirable. That said, a CAD system can be more useful when the vari- ous modules attached to it can effectively communicate with one another. This is especially true when more than one ju- risdiction is involved. Often in the case of major emergencies, multiple jurisdictions will assist in the emergency response and often, different jurisdictions use different systems, fur- ther complicating response efforts. However, if different ju- risdictions have systems that are interoperable, response time and response effi cacy are greatly improved; this matters tre- mendously in emergency situations.

For those reasons, having a CAD system that is interoper- able with another agency’s (from the same, or another, vendor) would be preferable to an otherwise technologically superior CAD system. Interoperability is key in unifying systems so that multiple vendor offerings can work in unison, or so that one vendor can provide solutions to a number of partner agencies. Public safety organizations need to put more focus on ac- quiring technology and infrastructure that work well with other, different systems such as an RMS and CAD system that are interoperable with existing infrastructure and software. This can give a public safety organization the top overall product that is in turn a best fi t.

Marrying Policy to Technology Interoperable technology isn’t enough—organizations need policies that make the technologies work together. This is especially true when one considers multiple agencies from multiple jurisdictions that may have competing regulatory and compliance mandates.

When implementing an interoperable system like CAD or RMS, data entry and other items need to be standardized. For example, if two agencies have an interoperable RMS, but they have different standards for matching records, then the infor- mation from each is effectively separate. Jurisdictional dif- ferences or regulations may further exacerbate the problem. When there’s a standardized way for data to fl ow between systems, interoperability leads to operational effi ciency, and the way to create that standardization is through good pol- icy. An interoperable system means less time trying to track down additional information or clarifi cation. This allows an organization to make more effi cient use of its existing workforce, ultimately allowing an organization to achieve better results for the community at no additional cost to time or resources. In a time where many departments are being forced to do more with less, operational effi ciency can

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be a huge help in maintaining high standards. Policies that help public safety agencies may include the development of a standards book or instructions, and a decision board with authority to oversee such decisions.

Balancing Privacy with Data Sharing In an ideal world, all data might be housed centrally, where it would be theoretically the safest and easiest to access. But in reality, data sharing and interoperability raise questions about privacy—and making sure that the information on an individual is appropriately handled. Public safety agencies need strong security measures and privacy protections to en- sure data on an individual is shared safely and appropriately between various systems within an organization. Moreover, agencies need to be aware of the increased risk of exposing the personally identifi able information of con- stituents when the data is being transmitted between two or more systems. Without proper policies in place, information can potentially end up in the wrong hands or be otherwise misconstrued when being analyzed by another party. In emergency situations where lives are at stake, public safety offi cers need to make sure the data they are utilizing is handled with care. With the massive increase in cybercrime and identity theft over the past few years, the protection of this information can be nearly as important as the protection of a constituent’s life.

Mastering Interoperability & Data Sharing Interoperability has become absolutely critical to maintaining public safety. Interoperable records management systems can allow 911 dispatchers to instantly share knowledge of chang- ing events with offi cers in the fi eld, which in turn allows offi cers to leverage existing data on suspects and previous incidents, and enables command staff to strategize with de- tailed data on crime patterns.

Whether purchasing complete systems or individual soft- ware components, it’s imperative that agencies prioritize systems and software that are interoperable, which will help ensure operational effi ciency and a system that is the best fi t for that organization.

Lastly, implementation of policy so that processes and procedures are standardized across the system is key to safe- guarding interoperability and ultimately making it work. Interoperability will revolutionize how law enforcement conducts business—it’s just a matter of making the right de- cisions. With these tips, any agency can use interoperability to take itself to the next level.

Kevin Lafeber is the Vice President and General Manager, Public Safety + Justice, SunGard Public Sector.

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