Working Together to Improve Public Safety
"The ability to quickly update and share data is a huge factor in enabling us to do our jobs better. Ultimately, it allows us to more effectively serve and protect the public.”
Christopher J. Creech, Manager of Information Technology, Wake County Sheriff’s Office
A Critical Hub
The Wake County Sheriff’s Office, located in the Wake County Public Safety Center in downtown Raleigh, is the primary law enforcement agency for the unincorporated areas of Wake County. The office employs nearly 1,000 personnel working in six divisions, including Patrol, Investigative, Special Operations, Judicial Services, Detention and Administrative. The Sheriff’s Office relies on a SunGardbased public safety and justice software suite to help manage the county’s criminal justice data. It also houses the county-wide criminal justice system. As such, the office acts as the central data hub for all public safety divisions within the county. This approach has proven an effective costsharing model. Rather than each agency buying and maintaining their own servers, the Sheriff’s Office owns and maintains all public safety-dedicated servers, which other agencies access and utilize as needed. “Some of the agencies have no IT staff at all, so this approach has proven very successful for them,” says Christopher J. Creech, manager of Information Technology for the Wake County Sheriff’s Office. The model has also helped further the county’s data-sharing goals. “Using this approach, we are able to freely share all of our criminal justice and civil process data amongst each other as a true law enforcement community,” says Creech.
The Downside of Data Sharing
Unfortunately, Wake County’s technology-sharing strategy also had a drawback. Because the Sheriff’s Office acted as the main cog in the public safety data-sharing wheel, the other agencies relied on the office anytime they needed to make a change or addition to their data. “Other agencies could not access the system to create their own user accounts, to add new employees, change someone’s access privileges or even to change a title if someone was promoted,” says Creech. “The Sheriff’s Office had to devote staff time to handle all of those needs.” As a result, resources at the Sheriff’s Office were strained. The process frustrated end users as well. “Many of the agencies wanted some autonomy to be able to manage their own records without having to rely on us every time they needed to change something,” says Creech. “We have a lot of novice IT people. They did not understand how the system worked — they just wanted to be able to go to one place and update their department information.” Ultimately, the cumbersome processes affected the entire public safety community. When the Sheriff’s Office became overwhelmed, critical data could not be added or changed in a timely manner. Yet the office saw few alternatives. Allowing the other agencies direct access to the SunGard database was not feasible given its complexity and the sensitivity of the data. The county needed a way to ease the burden on the Sheriff’s Office while allowing the other public safety agencies to maintain their own data in a controlled, secure and effective manner.
Read the full article on how Wake County enabled end users without sacrificing security