Automated Information Sharing: Does It Help Law Enforcement
Officers Work Better?
Final report submitted to NIJ, Assessing an Automated
Information-Sharing Technology in the Post ‘9-11’
Era: Do Local Law Enforcement Officers Think It Meets Their
Needs? by Martin J. Zaworski, available from NCJRS (NCJ
Law enforcement must share information within and among
agencies. Doing so increases not only public safety, but
officer safety as well. Contributing to better sharing of
information is the goal of the Automated Regional Justice
Information System (ARJIS), developed as a Web-based network
of criminal justice agencies in San Diego County.
This study asked officers and detectives in the San Diego
Sheriff’s Office (SDSO) their views about ARJIS and
information technology in general. Their views were then
compared to those of officers in a sheriff’s department
located in the Southeastern United States that has no automated
Officers in the SDSO use ARJIS for tactical analysis, crime
analysis, and investigations, and to obtain statistical
can also ask the system to notify them when information
they need about an individual, location, or vehicle is available
from another agency or officer. To use ARJIS, they stop
at a satellite police station in the communities they patrol.
Comparison officers must make phone calls to obtain the
same kinds of information.
The two agencies also differ more broadly in their use
of information technology. More than three-fourths of SDSO
officers use their computers 6 to 8 hours a day, while only
30 percent of officers in the comparison agency use their
computers that much. Because officers in the non-ARJIS agency
are not allowed to use their computers while driving, the
number of hours they can spend online is limited.
Perceptions of IT and Information Sharing
Officers were asked if—in their view—their
productivity was increasing because of information technology
and information sharing.
SDSO officers felt more strongly than officers in the comparison
agency that information technology in general increases
effectiveness and job performance. Officers from both agencies
think information sharing is important, but there was no
difference between the two in how they think it affects
There was essentially no difference between the two groups
in how they saw the role of information sharing in making
arrests. Because SDSO officers have access to regional information
and thus would seem to be better equipped to make arrests,
this result was unexpected.
Investigations, Arrests, Case Clearances: Perceptions
Does ARJIS increase case clearances? SDSO officers were
likely to think so. In fact, many of them attributed clearances
directly to ARJIS. Even though officers in the comparison
agency use computers to obtain information that helps clear
cases, without ARJIS they have less immediate access to
information that supports case clearances.
Analysis of crime clearance and arrest data produced some
unexpected results. ARJIS users believe it helps them in
certain tasks like investigating, making arrests, and solving
crime. However, in solving violent crimes, both groups had
virtually the same success rate. In solving property crimes,
the agency without ARJIS did much better, almost tripling
the number cleared by SDSO officers. The comparison agency’s
arrest rate was also much higher.
Any number of variables between the SDSO and comparison
agency may account for why the SDSO officers made fewer
arrests and cleared fewer property crimes. Differences in
how arrests and clearances were reported, and other organizational
differences may account for this unexpected result. One
particular factor is the management philosophy of the comparison
agency. The agency uses CompStat as part of its “performance
management imperative.” Officers in the agency attribute decreased crime and increased
clearance rates to CompStat, which sets rigorous performance
measures and requires accountability from commanders at
the precinct level. Officers were observed to focus more
on what is happening in their patrol zones, and they attribute
that focus to the need to prepare for their agencies’
CompStat sessions. Technology itself is never the sole factor
Law enforcement officers believe that regional information-sharing
technology increases their productivity. But the research
also suggests that there are opportunities to improve ARJIS
and its implementation.
SDSO officers found it more difficult than comparison
agency officers to locate data. Information overload can
make it difficult for officers to find exactly what they
need. When adopting information-sharing technologies, officials
could obtain input from street-level officers to ensure
that the system delivers no more than what is needed.
Neither agency provides much formal training, and officers
from both agencies were dissatisfied with the amount of
training offered. Some officers from both agencies said
they spend a lot of time training colleagues, indicating
that a system of informal, unstructured training has emerged
to fill the void. Policymakers might be able to bolster
training; formally recognize the existence of informal training;
and give trainers additional recognition, status, or rewards.
For more information
 Electronic interfaces with the 50 participating justice
agencies offer access to information about criminal cases,
arrest citations, field interviews, traffic accidents, fraudulent
documents, photographs, gangs, and stolen property. More
than 10,000 users generate more than 35,000 transactions
 CompStat (“Computerized Statistics”) is a
management strategy that gives local commanders considerable
discretion while requiring accountability for crime in their
precincts. In the New York City Police Department, where
it was first adopted in 1994, a major part of CompStat is
weekly crime control strategy briefings in which the discussions
are based on statistical analyses of crime reports.