NIBRS Compliance Heads The List of Records Management System Trends Worth Exploring
Posted on June 30, 2022 by Bob Scott
Recently, we explored short-term and medium-term trends pertaining to computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems.
Some of the key topics these blogs discuss include the evolution of CAD mapping, CAD-to-CAD interoperability, and browser-based solutions. (Click here and here to read these blogs.) This blog examines trends in law enforcement records management systems (RMS).
Trend #1: NBIRS Compliance
Six years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) notified every notified federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies across the country that the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NBIRS) would become the sole method for collecting and reporting crime statistics, effective January 1, 2021. This is because NIBRS does a much deeper dive into crime reporting than the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program’s summary reporting system (SRS).
Here's an example: In the past, the crime data collected for a domestic abuse incident simply would consist of the gender of the victim and whether the incident was a simple or aggravated assault. Today, NIBRS data would indicate the relationship between the assailant and the victim, the type of weapon used — e.g., gun, knife, hatchet, baseball bat — and a slew of other relevant factors, such as those that could be used to determine whether the incident was a hate crime. The more granularity in the dataset, the better.
One of the reasons that the FBI wants all U.S. law-enforcement agencies to capture NIBRS elements is to foster greater consistency in the data that is being collected for each incident that occurs. Indeed, considerable inconsistency traditionally has existed in terms of how law-enforcement agencies from coast to coast gather and report crime data, as well as the types of data captured. NIBRS has defined standard ways of describing an incident and collecting the data associated with it so that apples-to-apples comparisons can be made between neighboring jurisdictions and like-sized jurisdictions, as well as at the national level.
Said another way, data has to be collected in the same manner, using the same codes and nomenclature, from the country’s largest law-enforcement agency—the New York City Police Department (NYPD) —to its smallest in order to paint a truly national picture of crime in the U.S.
But for that to happen, the records management software used by law-enforcement agencies needs to produce NIBRS-compliant data — and that continues to be a work in progress. A huge barrier is that migration to NIBRS is a daunting task. Every agency uses unique incident codes and nomenclature, and all of that has to be mapped to the codes and nomenclature established for NIBRS. This data mapping is a very heavy lift that the RMS vendors typically don’t want to perform, so it falls to the agency — which is a very big problem.
Nevertheless, it needs to be done because NIBRS-compliant data is a necessity for every jurisdiction. When local law-enforcement agencies are unable to produce such data, it is impossible to paint an accurate picture of criminal activity in a state and in pockets within a state. Not only is this problematic from a strategic perspective, but it also has a significant effect on funding because many grant programs identify NIBRS compliance as a prerequisite.
Trend #2: Movement of RMS Infrastructure to the Cloud
Another trend that bears watching involves the movement of RMS infrastructure to the cloud. Public safety agencies have been somewhat reticent to move CAD infrastructure to the cloud because every second matters in emergency response and they’re concerned about availability and reliability — if locating the victim of an emergency is delayed even for a few seconds, lives can be lost. The same data-immediacy concerns do not pertain to RMS — if a police report is delayed getting into an RMS by an hour or two, no one is going to suffer any heartburn.
Moreover, the advantages of cloud-based RMS are significant. For instance, field personnel can access such systems from anywhere via a web-based browser. In addition, agencies no longer have to touch every mobile data terminal and rugged laptop every time they want to execute a software upgrade — instead, the cloud-based RMS vendor enables the upgrade to every device simultaneously when the application on the server is updated. For these reasons and more, we predict that within three years browser-based RMS in the cloud will be the predominant offering and on-premises systems will be a thing of the past.
Trend 3: Integration of Third-Party Applications with RMS
Finally, many law-enforcement agencies use third-party applications to write citations and tickets for moving and parking violations. Increasingly, they want to integrate those applications with their RMS so that the data captured by the former can be uploaded easily and seamlessly into the latter. Here’s a famous example of why this is vitally important. In the mid-1970s, David Berkowitz, aka the “Son of Sam,” terrorized New York City for a year, murdering six people and wounding nine others. He was arrested because a laborious and time-consuming search of parking ticket data revealed that Berkowitz had received tickets in close proximity to where the murders occurred.
At the time that crime spree happened, if the NYPD’s RMS had been integrated with a third-party ticketing application — which would have enabled lightning-quick analysis of the data — Berkowitz almost certainly would have been apprehended earlier, preventing some of the attacks and saving a few lives.
Here’s another example. Let’s say that a robbery has occurred at a liquor store. Let’s also say that someone was pulled over for speeding in close proximity to the store shortly after the robbery occurred or had caused a crash by driving recklessly. That would be vital information for investigators to have quickly — something made possible by well-integrated RMS and third-party citation/ticketing applications that generate easily searchable data. The same holds true for crash reports — all of this data should be incorporated into the RMS even if these reports are prepared in a third-party solution.
We would welcome the opportunity to help your agency craft a strategy to evolve your RMS, including helping your convert your current system or procuring a new system that is NIBRS compliant right out of the box — please reach out.
Bob Scott is MCP’s automated systems domain lead. Email him at BobScott@MissionCriticalPartners.com.