SEARCH Holds 2010 Winter Membership Group Meeting in Nashville

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The Membership Group of SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics, recently held its Winter Meeting at the Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, on February 23-25, 2010. The Board of Directors meeting was held on the afternoon of February 25.

The meeting included 2 days of presentations and discussions and was attended by more than 75 justice and public safety officials, including 38 Members and Alternates, plus speakers, staff, and observers. The theme of the meeting was Member Involvement, and Members spent a lot of time in small breakout groups, focusing on how SEARCH as an organization can address the many challenges facing the states today.

Download materials or presentations from the 2010 Annual Meeting »

Tuesday, February 23

The meeting's first day included —
  • an update on current legislative activities of the U.S. Congress;
  • a discussion of information sharing and some of the challenges faced by state repositories;
  • an address by a panel of Federal agency partners from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), featuring discussions on critical issues impacting the states;
  • a report from the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS);
  • a review of the background check practices of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM);
  • two SEARCH Members discussing their leadership roles in organizations outside of SEARCH; and
  • SEARCH staff overview of public safety two-way radio communication.

Washington Scene
SEARCH General Counsel Robert R. Belair discussed the status of appropriations activity and Federal funding for SEARCH in general, and reviewed pending Congressional legislation.

SEARCH Impact in the Field
This panel was designed to lay the foundation for the discussions that were to follow throughout the meeting. Ms. Kelly Peters Harbitter, SEARCH Deputy Executive Director, asked the presenters to discuss the observations and experiences they are having in the field regarding information sharing. She then facilitated a discussion between the panel and Members on the challenges faced by state repositories today.

Mr. Owen Greenspan, SEARCH Director of Law and Policy, discussed the evolution of state repositories, stating that they have evolved through changes in technology, law and policies. But because of these changes, the central role of the state repository is being challenged.

Mr. Scott Came, SEARCH Director of Systems and Technology, shared what the Systems and Technology team is seeing in the field in terms of information repositories, distinct from state criminal record repositories. He discussed the notion of information fusion, whereby rather than bringing information to a central point and then making it available through a query (the basic model of the state criminal history repository today), the information resides at the source. Tools and technologies are then used to bring just enough information into a central point to be able to link all of that information together. And then pointers reach out to where the original information resides.

Federal Partners
Mr. Bernard K. Melekian, Director, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. DOJ, talked about the longstanding partnership between the COPS Office and SEARCH, stating that the need to build relationships and solve problems through technology and information sharing has never been more critical. He added that an important area for SEARCH assistance is within tribal governments and the challenges in Indian Country.

Dr. Gerard F. Ramker, Associate Director for Statistical Planning, Policy, and Operations, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), U.S. DOJ, gave a status report on BJS and talked about the things that they're seeing in the administration that are encouraging for BJS. He stated that the two-year review of BJS is now complete and will provide a roadmap for improvement. He also stated that the administration places a high priority on research and statistics and that the administration has made a firm commitment to enhancing research that NIJ and BJS is responsible for. Dr. Ramker talked about the recent enhancements made to the BJS website and the new online tools now available for data analysis.

FBI CJIS Division Report
Mr. Daniel Roberts, Assistant Director, CJIS Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, gave an update on activities and operations underway within the division. He discussed the many collaborations and partnerships the CJIS Division has, including a very solid relationship with SEARCH. He talked about how FBI CJIS works closely with law enforcement, national security, and the intelligence community to provide them with the criminal justice information they need. Mr. Roberts gave a brief overview of many of the services CJIS provides.

Overview of the OPM - Investigative Program
Mr. Chad Wilkinson, Chief, Records Access and Liaison, Federal Investigative Services, U.S. OPM, provided an overview of its operations. The OPM's Federal Investigative Services Division (OPM-FISD) conducts background investigations on Federal employees, applicants for Federal employment, and government contractors to determine their fitness and suitability for Federal employment.

Hearing from Our Friends to Explore Areas of Mutual Interest
Ms. Wendy Brinkley, Special Agent in Charge, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and North Carolina SEARCH Member, spoke in her role as the current president of the Nlets Board of Directors, stating that there is a lot of membership overlap between SEARCH and Nlets. She gave a brief grant update and discussed the Nlets Assistance Fund, which provides small dollar awards (ranging from $1-5,000) and is available to Nlets representatives and their staff for travel, training, and consulting needs the States may have.

Ms. Liane Moriyama, Administrator, Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center, Department of the Attorney General, and SEARCH Hawaii Member, spoke in her role as the current chair of the FBI's National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Council. She stated that all states are now a part of the Interstate Identification Index (III), and 28 have passed the Compact; 12 states have signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

Overview of the National Public Safety Broadband Network
Mr. Doug Onhaizer, SEARCH Director of Public Safety Programs, gave the Membership Group an overview of public safety two-way radio communications services.

Wednesday, February 24

The meeting's second day included two plenary sessions that framed the breakout sessions that were to follow.

Defining the Challenges Facing Repositories Today
In this session, some of the influences, issues, and problems affecting the repositories, including Congressional legislation and agency determinations, were discussed.

Mr. Belair shared his thoughts on some of the Congressional challenges that state repositories face today.

Dr. Ramker offered his views of some significant challenges facing state central repositories today, including the need to educate Congress, plus the FBI and the program offices within OJP, on the importance of the work that the repositories provide. He also talked about how the technological infrastructure of the repositories is aging and funding needs to be secured for continued maintenance, growth, and enhancement of that infrastructure.

Ms. Moriyama gave her perspective on some of the challenges now facing the states. She suggested the repositories market their services through education and training, offering these key points:
  • The state record is more complete,
  • The states offer positive identification,
  • States can offer a more comprehensive view by providing additional information, including sex offender registration, mug shot photos, and DNA,

Breakout Session 1 Recap
The Members divided into three groups to hold in-depth discussions of the operational, policy, and technical issues their states are facing. After spending nearly two hours in breakout session, they reconvened in plenary to discuss their findings.

    Facilitators, Operational Issues:
    - Ms. Diane Sherman
    Director, Michigan Criminal Justice Information Center
    (SEARCH Member-MI)

    Ms. Kelly Peters Harbitter
    Deputy Executive Director, SEARCH

    Facilitators, Policy Issues:
    - Mr. David Steingraber
    Executive Director, Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance
    (SEARCH Member-WI)

    Mr. Owen Greenspan
    Director, Law and Policy, SEARCH

    Facilitators, Technical Issues:
    - Mr. Karhlton Moore
    Executive Director, Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services
    (SEARCH Member-OH)

    Mr. Scott Came
    Director, Systems and Technology, SEARCH

Exploring Options to Address the Identified Challenges of Today: Breakout Session 2 Recap
The Membership Group was once again divided into three groups, each tasked with examining the following:
  • Access to the data-a single point of entry. The ability to go to one place-one-stop-shopping-and get the records that you need.
  • Fees, and associated issues.
  • Record quality-accuracy and completeness of the record.

Returning to plenary after the second breakout session, the facilitators gave reports on each of the three topics.

Wednesday, February 24

The final day of the meeting included updates on N-DEx, BJS, and TSA activities.

Policy Discussion of State Issues for Implementation of the FBI's Law Enforcement National Data Exchange (N-DEx) Program In a continuing effort to provide the Membership Group with the latest information regarding N-DEx, the panel led a discussion that included Mr. David Gavin, N-DEx Outreach Specialist, who talked about the training and policy issues involved, and Supervisory Special Agent Brian Edgell, Deputy Program Manager, N-DEx, FBI, who explained the auditing processes within N-DEx.

SEARCH High-Tech Crime Training Services Program Briefing
Mr. David Bishop, Director of High-Tech Crime Training Services, gave the Membership Group an overview of SEARCH's High-Tech Crime Training Services Program.

Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Briefing on the Grant Program
Ms. Devon B. Adams, Chief, Criminal Justice Data Improvement Program, BJS, U.S. DOJ, gave an update from BJS on their National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), the NICS [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] Act Record Improvement Program (NARIP), NICS estimates, and the FY 2011 budget.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Update
Mr. Nathan Tsoi, Operations Officer, HME Threat Assessment Program, TSA, U.S. DHS, and Mr. Wilbur Rehmann, TSA contractor, provided an update on the DHS's Hazardous Materials (HazMat) and Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC) Programs.

Mr. Mark Gwyn, Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, welcomed SEARCH Members to Nashville and thanked them for all they do in the area of criminal history background checks and for the training SEARCH provides.

Dr. Gerry Ramker, BJS (left), and Mr. Bernard Melekian, COPS Office, gave Members an update on activities within their respective agencies. At right, Mr. Robert Belair.

Idaho Member Ms. Dawn Peck offered that many of the state central repositories have taken on other roles in addition to dealing with arrest and disposition data, including sex offender registries. These additional roles add to the responsibilities of the repositories.

Mr. Daniel Roberts, Assistant Director of the CJIS Division at the FBI, gave a brief overview of many of the services CJIS provides.