The notion that law enforcement fusion centers regularly violate individuals’ privacy rights as they capture intelligence on gangs, terrorist activities, organized crime, and other threats to public safety is simply not true. That, according to a study published in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology.
The paper, “Law Enforcement Fusion Centers: Cultivating an Information Sharing Environment while Safeguarding Privacy,” was authored by Jeremy Carter, an assistant professor of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. His article carefully addresses the privacy-rights issue of criminal intelligence gathering, among others.
There are approximately 80 fusion centers in the United States. They were created in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The attacks exposed the requirement for greater information sharing and improved intelligence capabilities at all law enforcement levels. According to the article’s author, the idea was to have the key pieces of data funneled into fusion centers so that highly trained analysts could stay atop of threats and correspond with local law enforcement agencies on these potential threats.
Designed with a view to enhance information-sharing among agencies, fusion centers act as ‘hubs’ of data and intelligence on gang activities, terrorist cells, organized crime, and other public safety threats. Vast amounts have data has been collected, and concerns about individual privacy and civil rights have ensued. The very legitimacy of these fusion centers has been called into question.
The notion that law enforcement fusion centers represent ‘Big Brother’, and that data is being stored and disseminated about people irrespective of whether they are suspected of criminal activity is simply wrong, according to Professor Carter.
Still, concerns remain about who can access the data, and for what purpose. However, a survey of fusion centers across the country suggests that they take appropriate steps to safeguard individual privacy via something called Federal Regulatory Code CFR 28 Part 23.
“Fusion centers are following the federal regulatory code, 28 CFR Part 23, that is the legal standard for collecting information,” Carter said. “That code says you have to establish a criminal predicate, basically probable cause, to keep information on identifiable individuals.”
Additionally, the majority of the fusion centers have implemented strong controls that provide built-in safeguards that protect the privacy of individuals. The fusion centers are also regularly audited to ensure that only the correct type of data is gathered, and that is stored and disseminated in a need-to-know basis.
The backbone of any functioning criminal intelligence unit is the strength of its intel files and/or gang records. Best practices for gang intelligence suggests that agencies should regularly update and contribute gang intelligence to a specialized gang intelligence system (aka gang database). These intelligence systems can manage and store thousands or millions of records of gangs, their activities, and their members.
With gang intelligence software, authorized users may read and update specific files, search and retrieve photos/videos/audio, and generally utilize the solution to assist investigation efforts. An example of some attributes stored within a gang intelligence system are:
Marks and Scars
Properly utilized, the gang intelligence system should allow the collection, analysis, storage and retrieval of data that qualifies as criminal intelligence. The data should only be disseminated to agency members with a specific need, and that need should be logged as part of the dissemination.
Gang Intelligence Integrity
With a gang intelligence database, agencies must preserve the integrity of the system through security and access restriction from unauthorized users – internal and external – because of constitutional protection for individuals whose personal information is contained within the system.
Importantly, for gang intelligence, a rigid purging process must be adhered to as this ensures the integrity and credibility of the data. If, for example, a record has not been reviewed or appended for a period of five years, best practices suggest that the record be purged.
Access governance is also critical to gang intelligence systems to ensure integrity of the data entered and maintained and, importantly, to comply with applicable regional, state, and federal laws.
Gang / Criminal Intelligence and U.S. Law
The United States Constitution prohibits the criminalization of mere membership in a gang (or other similar organization). There is nothing illegal about being a gang member, according to our country’s laws. However, it is perfectly legal for agencies to add gang members to the database even if no crime has been committed by that member.
The tracking and storage of this data is widely criticized, however. Opponents suggest that agencies are profiling or targeting groups that are not engaged in criminal activities, and/or installing a ‘guilt by association’ mentality by tracking those members.
Conversely, advocates of gang intelligence database systems know that law enforcement has a legitimate interest in monitoring the individuals and groups engaged in ‘group criminal behavior’.
The back-and-forth between sides creates tension between the rights of society to be protected by law enforcement, and the individual privacy expectations of gang members.
CFR 28 Part 23
The result of these competing interests is something called Code of Federal Regulations, Title 28, Part 23 (CFR 28 Part 23) which details the requirements for gathering, entering, storing, and disseminating information about individuals and organizations (gangs) into an intelligence system.
28 CFR Part 23 was designed as a regulation specific to multi-jurisdictional intelligence systems that have received federal grant funds for the development or purchase of the gang database. It is, however, an excellent guide for individual agencies, as the regulation attempts to fairly balance the intelligence needs of law enforcement against individual privacy requirements. In other words, it helps agencies get their jobs done without violating individual rights.
Compliance with 28 CFR Part 23 in Gang Intelligence
Gang and criminal intelligence data is defined within 28 CFR Part 23 as “data which has been evaluated to determine that:
A) it is relevant to the identification of, and the criminal activity engaged in by, an individual who – or an organization which – is reasonably suspected of involvement in criminal activity, and
B) meets criminal intelligence system submission criteria”
The ‘submission criteria’ is essentially the basis for something to be entered into the gang intelligence system. The criteria include the following:
A reasonable suspicion that an individual is relevant to the criminal activity
Prospective information to be entered is relevant to the criminal activity
Information does not include data related to political, religious, or social views unless that information related directly to the criminal activity that formed the basis for focus on the gang or group
Information was not obtained in violation of any federal, state, or local law or ordinance
Information establishes sufficient facts to give trained law enforcement officials a basis to believe that an individual or gang/organization is involved in a definable criminal activity
As referenced above, 28 CFR Part 23 also indicates that information contained within a compliant database or criminal intelligence system must be reviewed and evaluated for relevance and importance every five years. Data that is deemed to be irrelevant and unimportant should be purged from the system. This is true even if the data is discovered to be noncompliant before five years.
Perhaps the most important element of a gang database system complying with 28 CFR Part 23 is that no information whatsoever from the database should be disseminated without a legitimate law enforcement reason, such as criminal investigation cases and charges being filed against a suspect.
If managing a gang intelligence system seems intimidating, it ought not be. If an agency desires to comply with 28 CFR Part 23, the rules for managing such as system are clearly spelled out. If an agency simply wants to collect and manage data outside of the federal guidelines – and has not accepted federal grant monies for such a program – they are free to do so as long as the system meets the security and ‘common sense’ guidelines that protect an individual’s right to privacy.
The headline on OPB.org is rather silly, actually….
Why Is The State Of Oregon Conducting Intelligence Work?
Well, you know, because Intelligence work is kind of important. The question isn’t ‘why’… the question is ‘how’. Read on…
The article is an excellent read, and outlines precisely why compliance with Federal regulation 28 CFR Part 23 is important. The regulation outlines standards for operating federally grant-funded multijurisdictional criminal intelligence systems. It specifically provides guidance in five primary areas: submission and entry of criminal intelligence information, security, inquiry, dissemination, and review-and-purge process.
See a robust 28 CFR Part 23 compliant criminal intelligence system from Crime Tech Solutions HERE.
What follows is a cut-and-paste of the article as it appears originally.
“The Oregon Department of Justice recently commissioned a review into why state investigators were scrutinizing Oregonians who used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media, including tweets by the head of the agency’s own Civil Rights Division. The resulting report suggests that two employees potentially broke state laws with their searches, but ultimately acted on their own volition.The state investigators who conducted the searches are part of an intelligence unit at the DOJ’s Terrorism Information Threat Assessment Network Fusion Center, part of a criminal intelligence unit at the DOJ. The Fusion Center is designed to prevent criminal activity and monitor public safety and specifically, terrorism threats in Oregon. The center collects data and shares information up and down the chain between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.The Black Lives Matter investigation has raised questions about the role of the Oregon Fusion Center and the cultural competency of its employees. OPB decided to take a closer look at this criminal intelligence unit:Who Works At The Fusion Center, And What Exactly Do They Do?The state-run center has been part of the DOJ’s Criminal Justice Division since 2007 and consists of eight employees, mostly research analysts. Some of those employees also work on other criminal cases. But Fusion Center work is often focused on producing terrorism threat assessments. Analysts research potential threats in advance of major events, such as the governor’s inauguration. Those assessments are used by law enforcement for event preparation and security. In an interview with OPB’s John Sepulvado, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said the center is essential to public safety.
“The Pendleton Round-Up, I know they’ve used the Fusion Center to do threat assessments to ensure safety of those who come to Pendleton for the event,” Rosenblum said. She also cited Oregon’s frequent hosting of international track meets: “I know we have participated there to ensure the safety of the participants and the community.”The Fusion Center also distributes safety and informational bulletins to other law enforcement agencies. Department of Justice spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson pointed to a 2014 example in which a center’s bulletin helped identify a rape suspect. The Port of Portland Police Department requested the Fusion Center distribute information about a rape at a hotel near Portland International Airport. The suspect’s description was distributed statewide and to the National Fusion Center Network, which DOJ officials said led to the identification and eventual arrest of the suspect.
Why Is The State Engaged In This Level Of Security And Intelligence Work?
Oregon’s Fusion Center is one of more than 70 such criminal intelligence centers across the country. President George W. Bush approved the establishment of fusion centers in 2006 with the goal of having local law enforcement and U.S. Department of Homeland Security authorities collaborate and share information. The Salem office is the only one of its kind in Oregon. The Department of Homeland Security describes fusion centers as “information sharing hubs that provide comprehensive and appropriate access, analysis, and dissemination that no other single partner can offer.” “The TITAN Fusion Center is highly regarded throughout Oregon, and highly relied upon by entities throughout the state that have events, for example, where they want to make ensure the safety of the participants,” Rosenblum said. A core concept of these centers is that employees may have local knowledge or context that federal authorities lack. So, hypothetically, if the Department of Homeland Security learned of a terrorism threat in, say, Eugene, federal investigators could forward that threat to Oregon’s Fusion Center. Research analysts could investigate that threat in partnership with Eugene-area law enforcement officials, and provide local context. “The whole point of a fusion center is to fuse information,” said Portland attorney Sean Riddell, who was chief of the DOJ’s Criminal Justice Division from 2009-2011 and oversaw Oregon’s Fusion Center.
“Say for instance, a law enforcement agency in Medford calls, says ‘We’re looking at this house and this person for trafficking of narcotics, and we don’t want to trip over another agency,” Riddell said. “They’d ask, ‘Is somebody else looking at him?’” The Fusion Center could then examine the files of other law enforcement agencies, such as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. If the DEA did in fact have an open file on that individual, the center could facilitate the sharing of information about the two investigations between agencies.
How Is The Fusion Center Funded?
Five Fusion Center positions are funded by the state legislature in the amount of $1.3 million for the 2015-2017 biennia. The other three staffers are paid via grants or federal money, according to the DOJ.
What Kinds Of Information Can Oregon’s Fusion Center Collect And Analyze?
The Fusion Center has access to an array of criminal and law enforcement records including criminal histories, suspicious activity reports and case records from federal, local and state agencies. They can research individuals, locations or organizations based on “reasonable suspicions.” The center may follow-up on tips and reports that come from individuals as well as other law enforcement agencies.
Fusion Centers have been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations for excessive secrecy standards that may limit public oversight, data collection that could threaten individual privacy, and ambiguous lines of authority.
The Oregon center is not allowed to seek out information about an individual on the basis of religious, political, racial or social views, per state law. They’re also not supposed to investigate people based on their participation in a particular non-criminal organization or event.
So it’s possible that Fusion Center investigators violated state law by conducting social media searches for #BlackLivesMatter on Twitter.
Carolyn Walker, an employment attorney with Portland law firm Stoel Rives prepared the DOJ report looking into the incident. She determined that intelligence unit staff need cultural competency training to help separate potential threats from everyday social media traffic.
The report shows that a DOJ employee was concerned that Erious Johnson Jr., who heads the Oregon Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, “constituted a potential threat to police,” citing several of Johnson’s tweets. One tweet the employee referenced included the lyrics “Consider yourself warned,” and a logo from the 1980s rap group Public Enemy. The investigators apparently didn’t understand the cultural reference.
“The Intelligence Unit as a whole would benefit from clear and consistent leadership and direction,” Walker wrote in her report, “specifically with respect to electronic monitoring of social media.””
This article originally appeared HERE in Jamaica Observer. It’s an interesting read…
A University of the West Indies (UWI) professor is calling for the increased use of technology by developing countries, including Jamaica, to assist in the fight against crime.
Professor Evan Duggan, who is Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, said there have been “amazing advancements” in information and communications technologies (ICT), over the past six decades, which offer great potential for improving security strategies.
The academic, who was addressing a recent National Security Policy Seminar at UWI’s Regional Headquarters, located on the Mona campus, pointed to Kenya as a developing country that has employed the use of inexpensive technology in its crime fighting initiatives.
“Potential applications and innovations have been implemented through the use of powerful but not very expensive technologies that have allowed law enforcers to make enormous leaps in criminal intelligence, crime analysis, emergency response and policing,” he said.
He pointed to the use of a variety of mobile apps for crime prevention and reporting, web facilities, and citizen portals for the reporting of criminal activity.
Professor Duggan said that in order for Jamaica to realise the full benefit of technology in crime fighting, national security stakeholders need to engage local application developers.
“I would enjoin our stakeholders to engage the extremely creative Jamaican application developers, who now produce high quality apps for a variety of mobile and other platforms. I recommend interventions to assist in helping these groups to cohere into a unified force that is more than capable of supplying the applications we need,” he urged.
The UWI Professor pointed to the Mona Geoinformatic Institute as one entity that has been assisting in fighting crime, through analyses of crime data as well as three dimensional (3D) reconstruction of crime scenes; and mapping jurisdictional boundaries for police posts and divisions, as well as the movement of major gangs across the country.
In the meantime, Professor Duggan called for “purposeful activism” in the fight against crime and lawlessness which, he said, are “serious deterrents to economic development and national growth prospects” and could derail the national vision of developed country status by 2030.
“In the current global landscape where security challenges are proliferating across borders and have taken on multifaceted physiognomies, all hands on deck are vital,” he stressed.
“We need to …consolidate pockets of research excellence in this area …to provide the kinds of insight that will lead to more fruitful and productive collaborative engagements that are required to help us better understand the security challenges and threats from crime in order to better inform our national security architecture and direction,” he added.
One: Finding Series, Patterns, Trends, and Hot Spots as They Happen
Crime analysts review all police reports every day with the goal of identifying patterns as they emerge. If a burglar starts targeting drugs stores in your jurisdiction, a crime analyst will let you know on the second incident. If domestic violence becomes a recurring problem in one family, an analyst will catch it. If your city, town, or county faces any emerging problem—youth disorder on a particular street, street robbery hot spots, new trends in fraud and forgery, a pattern of items being stolen from cars—your analyst can identify it and alert you about it as soon as possible.
Analyses of these trends, patterns, and hot spots provide you with the who, what, when, where, how, and why of emerging crime in your community. You can use this information to develop effective tactics and strategies, interceding as soon as possible, preventing victimization, and reducing crime.
Two: Researching and Analyzing Long-Term Problems
Crime analysis isn’t just about immediate patterns and series:analysts also look at the long-term problems that every police department faces. From a park that has been a drug-dealing hot spot for 20 years to a street that has a high number of car accidents to ongoing issues with crime and disorder at budget motels, a crime analyst can take it apart, explore its dimensions, and help the police department come up with long-term solutions.
Three: Providing Information on Demand
How often have you been frustrated getting the information you need from your records management or CAD system? Crime analysts know how to extract data from records systems, ask questions of it, and turn it into useful information. They know how to get data from other sources, and how to work with it. They know how to create charts, maps, graphs, tables, and other visual products.
Whether you need a list of all the incidents of youth violence over five years, or a chart showing trends in OUI arrests, or some statistics on motor vehicle citations, or a map showing an upcoming parade route, or an estimate of how many officers you’ll need in five years if current population trends continue, a trained crime analyst can put it together quickly and clearly.
Four: Developing and Linking Local Intelligence
Since September 11, 2001, we hear a lot about the need for intelligence. But what is it? And what does it have to do with local police departments?
Intelligence describes special information about criminals and criminal organizations: their goals, their activities, their chains of command, how money and goods flow through them, what they’re planning, and so on. Analyzing intelligence data on national and international problems is generally the responsibility of national and international agencies, but local police departments and local analysts play an important role.
First, as information synthesizers, crime analysts often know when local information or intelligence fits with state, national, or international intelligence. If the FBI issues a bulletin stating that terrorists are using forged passports from Belgium, your analyst will know to pay special attention when one of your reports mentions a Belgian passport. If a state agency issues a report on motorcycle gangs, your analyst can integrate that with your own police reports. In the post-September 11 world, you’re bombarded with information from multiple agencies at multiple levels; with a crime analyst, you have someone who can sift through this information and extract what’s relevant to your agency.
Second, your crime analyst can apply criminal intelligence analysis tactics to your local problems. Do you need a link chart showing the relationships between members of a local street gang? Or a carefully-crafted timeline for a court presentation? An analyst is trained in such techniques.
Five: Making Your Department Look Good
A crime analyst makes you and your agency look good to the public and to local government officials. You’re fully informed about a crime pattern before the press calls about it. The analyses, statistics, and charts on your web site and in printed publications convey that you are on top of crime and disorder. And when someone wants some information—whether a town selectman looking for statistics on juvenile liquor parties or a reporter looking for the top accident hot spots—you can provide it completely and quickly.
Crime analysts can also enhance the things you already do. Their desktop publishing skills can breathe new life into your reports, newsletters, and alerts; their graphing and charting skills can spice up your community presentations and budget requests; and their overall analysis and communications skills means that you always have someone on hand to explain crime and disorder—whether in meetings, interviews, or formal presentations—to the members of the community you serve.
The following article was published just over a year ago HERE by Dr. Laura Wyckoff, a Fellow at Bureau of Justice Assistance. We think it is worth exploring:
“Focusing resources on high-crime places, high-rate offenders, and repeat victims can help police effectively reduce crime in their communities. Doing so reinforces the notion that the application of data-driven strategies, such as hotspots policing, problem-oriented policing, and intelligence-led policing, work. Police must know when, where, and how to focus limited resources, as well as how to evaluate the effectiveness of their strategies. Sound crime analysis is paramount to this success.
What is crime analysis exactly? Crime analysis is not simply crime counts or the change in crime counts—that is just information about crime and not an analysis of crime. Crime analysis is a deep examination of the relationships between the different criminogenic factors (e.g., time, place, socio-demographics) surrounding crime or disorder that helps us understand why it occurs. Sound crime analysis diagnoses problems so a response may be tailored to cure it, or reduce the frequency and severity of such problems.
Data-driven policing and associated crime analysis are still in their infancy and are not typically integrated into the organizational culture as well as traditional policing strategies. Many agencies are still not aware of the advantages of an effective crime analysis unit, and others may not have the resources or knowledge to effectively integrate one. Of those that do employ crime analysis, many may not fully understand or accept this approach, or use it to its potential.
Additionally, police command staff typically are not analysts, so they may be unaware of how to guide this work to provide “actionable” crime analysis products that can be helpful for crime reduction efforts. At the same time, analysts are usually not police officers and may not be aware of how police respond to crime problems (both tactically and strategically), or what types of products will be most useful.
To be more effective at combating crime using data-driven strategies, we need to overcome these barriers and knowledge gaps. That is why the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) established the Crime Analysis on Demand initiative. This initiative has a number of training and technical assistance opportunities focused on increasing crime analysis capacity in agencies across the nation. BJA’s National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC) is providing police agencies access to crime analysis experts that provide recommendations, training, and technical assistance to help agencies improve their application of crime analysis.