LPSCC Council Members often point out that although the County has a wealth of public safety data, what is really needed are individuals who ask the right questions and know how to use existing data and resources to find the right answers. Indeed, a 2006 LPSCC report described how “staffing cuts over the past several years have reduced capacity for new projects and [led to] a large backlog of unmet [research] requests”
Although analytical capacity can always be expanded by hiring additional staff, the County must also empower its existing arsenal of research analysts with additional resources and with opportunities to network and communicate with others in the public safety system; analysts and technical experts must be placed into situations where they can observe (and participate in) relevant policy discussions, answer questions about data, offer recommendations and learn more from policy makers, program managers, and each other.
Agency analysts are typically absent from LPSCC meetings and other policy discussions where the seed for many of these “right questions” forms. An analyst conversant with public safety data could respond to policy discussions and broad questions with clarity and specificity: “Yes, we have the data to research this policy, and “Yes, I can work on that with another analyst.” The current process, at best, involves a relay in which questions are passed on to the analyst through a series of managers; at worst, the question is never conveyed to an analyst and never answered.
Several analysts and DSS-J IT staff could also provide technical assistance on existing County initiatives involving improvements to public safety data. For example, in April 2007, LPSCC’s Executive Committee voted to become the sponsoring agency for a new interagency Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) , which would provide real time connectivity among justice agencies throughout Multnomah County to support both public safety operations and policy making. In 2008, MTG Management Consultants, the contractor selected to develop a design for such a system, produced a series of reports that evaluated the feasibility of a Multnomah County CJIS and established an implementation plan. Although the county’s fiscal circumstances and the absence of outside grant funding have thus far prevented this multimillion dollar IT project from going forward, the feasibility report includes recommendations for several incremental changes that could be implemented regardless of whether a CJIS is eventually developed. For example, the report calls for more advanced notification and subscription capabilities; although these notices would be easier to facilitate under an integrated system, they are still possible using existing resources. DSS-J staff could serve as an important resource in evaluating the feasibility of some of those recommendations within the existing system.
As the County explores the feasibility of a CJIS, individual agencies are in the process of updating their own data management systems; most notably, Portland Police and the Oregon Judicial Department intend to update their systems (PPDS and OJIN, respectively) in the next few years in order to make data entry, management, and analysis more efficient and effective. While any improvements to these systems will likely improve communication and data sharing between systems, some improvements may be overlooked because they only benefit communication and data sharing between systems. DSS-J staff already has identified several improvements that could be made to communication and data sharing, they simply need a forum for sharing their recommendations; for example, as PPDS expands officers’ use of electronic reports, programmers could also prompt the system to automatically assign new arrest case numbers to any report filed. This small change would instantly increase the ability of DSS-J staff and other IT staff to link data between PPDS, SWIS, OJIN, and CRIMES.
- Subject to further analysis and a determination of feasibility, begin to address the needs identified in the CJIS feasibility study for increases in interagency data and connectivity. Lead: Elizabeth Davies / County IT / Public Safety Plan Workgroup
- Use DSS-J database knowledge to provide technical assistance and suggestions as individual agencies change their existing systems. Lead: County IT
- Encourage data analysts and program managers to attend policy-level meetings (such as LPSCC, CJAC, etc.) in order to stimulate the development of relevant research questions. Lead: Elizabeth Davies
- Encourage additional analysts to use DSS-J and consult County IT for help in creating their own reports (rather than making special requests on already limited DSS-J IT staff time). See Strategy 5.
- Formalize the DSS-J project request process and prioritize DSS-J staff time for certain projects. Lead: County IT