Effective governance has long been recognized as a key success factor in planning and implementing information sharing and technology projects and initiatives. Additionally, governance structures allow for proper strategic planning, coordination and decisionmaking around key public safety areas, such as interoperability, emergency planning, and homeland security. In SEARCH’s work with justice and public safety agencies undertaking these efforts, SEARCH advocates and provides support, guidance, and resources for developing governance structures.


Interoperability Continuum Element Baseline Assessment Subelement
Decision-making Groups
Strategic Planning

Generally, “governance” refers to the creation of a formally organized structure that ensures principal participants, stakeholders, and users are appropriately involved in a project or are focused on a particular public safety area or process improvement. 

Defining this governing body or structure, whether by executive order, statute, informal organization or by a memorandum of understanding, ensures a place at the table for all relevant agencies and users and formalizes and ensures equality in decision-making.

Additional Resources

Need advice on governance for your agency’s or jurisdiction’s effort? Want resource materials? SEARCH is here to help through a variety of tools, resources and publications:

Governance as it applies to information sharing projects

Sharing and exchanging justice information in an automated fashion is a complicated process. It requires the state to play a leadership role in building the infrastructure that enables statewide information sharing, and to create, adopt and maintain state information systems and standards. Clearly, this is a significant challenge for state and local public policymakers and justice administrators.

The administration of justice includes numerous justice and nonjustice agencies, many of which operate myriad systems for collecting, maintaining, analyzing and sharing data and information critical to carrying out their respective missions. Creating the capacity to share information and data among and between agencies, levels of government and a variety of disciplines means overcoming established barriers to data exchange.Representatives of the various agencies, disciplines and levels of government, therefore, must come together and formulate and agree to a unified strategy for achieving interoperability. Planning for and implementing integrated justice is a complicated business that involves a multifaceted array of technical, political, organizational, legal, technical, cultural and personal issues that must be addressed. Some formal organizational structure is a necessary first step to ensure that the principal participants, stakeholders, and users are intimately involved in the project.

The governing body is the vehicle through which agencies, stakeholders and users participating in integrated justice strategically plan for integrated systems implementation. It:

Source: Governance Structures, Roles and Responsibilities

Note: This definition applies to enterprise governance rather than a discrete project.

Governance as it applies to interoperability

The term “governance” is sometimes used to describe a decision-making structure. Most appropriately, governance is the body or organizational structure guiding a larger interoperability process, as opposed to a specific project. For example, a multijurisdictional region may have an overarching initiative to improve communications interoperability. Or a state may have an interoperability executive committee (SIEC). Within those processes, there may be multiple projects being undertaken by a variety of involved partners.

We use the term “decision-making structure” here specifically for projects that have an identifiable beginning and end. Governance bodies generally serve ongoing initiatives or oversee management of multiagency systems after implementation. Processes to improve interoperability lead to projects and back to processes for managing underlying systems—organizational and technical—over their lifecycles. As systems become long in the tooth, processes to improve them arise again.

Source: Law Enforcement Tech Guide for Communications Interoperability

Karen Lissy

Ms. Karen Lissy is a Justice Information Services Specialist for the Law and Policy Program of SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. In this position, she provides assistance to state and local justice and public safety agencies to collect, curate, and use National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data and computerized criminal history record (CCH/CHRI) information for policy analysis and development.

She also guides justice and related organizations in how to craft and implement laws, policies, practices, and technology applications to effectively collect and use CCH and related justice/public safety data; address legal, policy, and regulatory issues associated with CCH data; better manage and operate criminal justice information and identification systems; and develop security and privacy policies that protect justice information sharing systems.

Ms. Lissy has nearly two decades of research and data analysis experience, having led projects and tasks in support of two agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (the Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Institute of Justice), as well as the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and multiple foundations, including Ford, Annie E. Casey, and Hewlett. Prior to joining SEARCH in October 2020, Ms. Lissy served as a Social Science Researcher at RTI International, as a regional Crime Analyst for the Redmond (WA) Police Department, and as Director of a research program with the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Beginning in 2012, Ms. Lissy’s work has focused on improving data in law enforcement to answer policy questions and improve community/police relations.

Ms. Lissy earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University, and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Michael Mackay

Mr. Michael Mackay is an Information Sharing Developer for SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. As part of the Software and Data Engineering Program (SDEP) team, he plans, develops, implements, and deploys information sharing systems on behalf of SEARCH clients in local, state, tribal, and Federal government settings. He also provides programming, configuration, and testing assistance, and consults on implementation architecture and design with clients. 

Mr. Mackay supports justice, public safety, and homeland security information sharing nationwide through SDEP services that include software architecture and systems design, application development, deployment and support, data management services, and direct technical assistance and training. These services offer capabilities that include federated query, authentication access/control, subscription/notification, process/workflow automation, data analysis, and more. 

Prior to joining SEARCH in 2021, Mr. Mackay worked as a Software Engineering Intern for TDM Business Toole Suite, where he provided software development support using Java frameworks, implemented relational database models using MySQL, and designed GUI components using NetBeans. 

Mr. Mackay will work in an Agile development environment, a methodology that SEARCH embraces that focuses on incremental development and delivery, collaboration in a team approach, and rapid and flexible response to change throughout the development cycle. 

Mr. Mackay earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics and Statistics from Stony Brook University, New York.