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May 24, 2011

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Tim Dees Police Tech & Gear
with Tim Dees

Ga. police deploy N-DEx and Sypherlink

One agency’s experience with the transfer from one records management system to another has been less painful than you might think

I’ve reported previously on the FBI’s N-DEx system and the utility of a software package called Sypherlink that is used to get a law enforcement agency’s data into a form that N-DEx can use. The Marietta, Georgia Police Department is the site of one of the first deployments of Sypherlink. Their systems manager, Nick Miletec, spoke to me about how that project is going.

N-DEx is a platform by which law enforcement agencies can make their data available to other departments, and in turn access the information provided by N-DEx participants. Agencies don’t have to be N-DEx contributors to benefit from the data storehouse, and likewise contributors don’t necessarily have access to the N-DEx stores.

Sypherlink is a kind of translation program. There are a great many records management systems (RMS) out there, and they mostly don’t talk to each other. There is no national standard for the formatting or mapping of law enforcement data. Sypherlink maps the data in the client agency’s RMS to a format compatible with N-DEx, so that the data can flow into the FBI’s servers.

About two years ago, Marietta PD switched RMS providers, moving from a system provided by HTE to one from Sungard. The information that has gone into the new RMS over the past two years was that first processed by Sypherlink. Miletec said that the initial data extract from their RMS gave the FBI a few hiccups when it was transmitted to the N-DEx system, Sypherlink made some adjustments, and the second attempt went smoothly. If you’ve never managed a software evolution like this, you might not appreciate how remarkable it is to get it right on only the second attempt.

The parent company of Sungard purchased HTE. This worked out well for Marietta PD and Sypherlink, because the legacy data contained in the old HTE RMS was converted to a form compatible with Sungard. Because of this, Sypherlink was able to map the old data to an N-DEx-friendly form, and transmit that to the FBI as well. There was 15 years’ worth of data in the old system, and no other agency has contributed records going back that far to N-DEx.

Marietta PD is filtering only their juvenile cases and sexual offender data from the feed to N-DEx. Everything else is going to the FBI.

Marietta’s report writing system is fully digitized, with officers completing their reports on workstations in their cars or in the police station, passing them electronically to their supervisors for approval. Report components such as accident diagrams, which historically have been drawn by hand, are completed with Microsoft Visio software. Most of Marietta’s intersections have been reproduced as templates in Visio, so officers need only drop the vehicle and pedestrian icons onto the templates to make the diagram. The resulting file is saved as a JPEG and included with the crash report.

While Marietta PD is sending information to N-DEx, they aren’t yet sharing in the wealth of the information contained there. Officers who want to access data contained in N-DEx have to do so through an online account in the FBI’s LEO system. In Georgia, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is tasked with vetting and processing applications for user accounts. This has been a bottleneck, as the GBI hasn’t yet sent out application packets for Marietta’s officers. Miletec said that officers will have to complete the applications and take an online computer-based training course to get full access to N-DEx. Marietta has about 120 sworn officers.

About the author

Tim Dees is a writer, editor, trainer, and former law enforcement officer. After 15 years as a police officer with the Reno Police Department and elsewhere in Northern Nevada, Tim taught criminal justice as a full-time professor and instructor at colleges in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia, and Oregon.

He was also a regional training coordinator for the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards & Training, providing in-service training to 65 criminal justice agencies in central and eastern Oregon.

Tim has written more than 300 articles for nearly every national law enforcement publication in the United States, and is the author of The Truth About Cops, published by Hyperink Press. In 2005, Tim became the first editor-in-chief for Officer.com, moving to the same position for LawOfficer.com at the beginning of 2008. He now writes on applications of technology in law enforcement from his home in SE Washington state.

Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from San José State University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Alabama, and the Certified Protection Professional credential from ASIS International. He serves on the executive board of the Public Safety Writers Association.

Dees can be reached at tim.dees@policeone.com.

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