RCMP push national police data-sharing project

The National Integrated Interagency Information (N-III) system, a groundbreaking information sharing initiative for police, public safety and federal agencies across Canada, will be a topic of discussion at the CACP annual conference in Montreal on August 24.

Headed by the RCMP, N-III will initially consist of two tools: the Police Information Portal (PIP) for law enforcement agencies and the Integrated Query Tool (IQT) for federal government departments and public safety agencies. IQT will provide access to police information through a governance-based access control (GBAC) filter, which aims to ensure that various information sharing laws are respected and agencies only access the data to which they are legally entitled.

The project began roughly four years ago and is scheduled for implementation in the spring of 2009. Currently, 172 of the 192 police agencies across Canada will participate. The remaining 20 are expected to join after resolving technology-related issues. As many as eight federal agencies may also be involved.

“There is nothing like it,” said Superintendent Charles Richer, N-III project director, RCMP. “As far as records management systems go, there’s nothing out there, has never been anything and this is groundbreaking with respect to providing that kind of information to police officers everywhere.”

PIP is a searchable index of all police agency Record Management Systems (RMS) across the country. Rather than connect the systems to each other, PIP operates as an information broker, explains the RCMP Web site. “The PIP portal sits among all participants, acting as an information search engine and request broker. Individual agencies decide what information they want to make available to other law enforcement agencies, while retaining ownership of the data. The portal contains only an index of information and not the contents of an electronic record.”

Inspired by provincially-run initiatives in BC and Ontario, PIP utilizes pre-existing networks. “It’s more about having record management systems that can speak to each other,” said Richer.

The London Police in Ontario spearheaded PIP efforts in Ontario. “When it comes to sharing of information, it’s always a challenge to try and put something together that will serve the needs nationally. We’ve worked with a number of agencies across Canada to try and make that happen and in fact, it has happened,” said Eldon D. Amoroso, senior director of Support Services Division at London Police Services and co-chair of CACP. Amoroso received the Order of Merit of the Police Forces at the Officer (O.O.M.) level this past May in recognition of his contributions over the past 28 years.

According to Amoroso, PIP will provide officers with information that the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) can’t. “We’ve had CPIC for 35 years. But it deals more with the hard facts, such as if there is a warrant for arrest for a person or if there is a court appearance…there may not be any charges at all.” PIP “is the 95 per cent of the data that wasn’t being shared.”

Richer made a similar point. “CPIC is not about the same thing…that’s information that’s put on there by police agencies…as a result of some kind of action, if you will. Whereas records management systems are about all the information that police officers collect in the course of a day.”

“[PIP] is really targeted to help the front line officer and the investigator know who they are dealing with,” said Amoroso. “You have everything from very sophisticated offenders who move from one jurisdiction to another to avoid detection, or you may get a predator operating in a large, geographic area and you want to know what everyone else knows…there may be a situation where one police agency has him stopped for one thing and another police agency has information on him for a completely different thing. But when you put it all together, it helps the investigator connect the dots. It could be everything from organized crime to terrorism.”

While information sharing initiatives may stir up privacy rights concerns, criminals such as Paul Bernado have taken the lack of information sharing across jurisdictions to their gross advantage. Mr. Justice Archie Campbell highlighted the need for police information sharing in the 1996 Bernardo Investigation Review.

“That’s where all this stemmed from, sharing information,” said Richer. “You can solve crimes, you can save lives, that’s pretty much what we’re about.”

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