The Data Services Section is the Information Technology branch of the Tucson Police Department. Twelve non-sworn employees, a non-sworn supervisor, three sworn employees, and the Information Technology Manager. In 1997, the department began a strategic initiative to aggressively promote development of its technology infrastructure and capabilities. This plan provided Data Services with a high-level integrated strategy for the management of information and technology within the Tucson Police Department. Data Services personnel embarked upon a series of projects designed to improve Police Department processes, efficiency, and service delivery, largely with the assistance of federal grant funding.
These initiatives were primarily devoted to providing new and improved tools to police officers and investigative personnel. These tools are designed to aid in the capture, retrieval, storage, and analysis of incident information. Improvements in the department’s wireless and mobile computing capabilities are intended to make these tools accessible to the officers in the field. Using these tools will enable officers to solve crimes and apprehend criminals more quickly, and prevent crimes before they occur. Information will be more accessible to TPD officers, other criminal justice agencies, and to the public.
Improving Data Capture: Automated Field Reporting
Improving data capture was a longterm goal of the technology plan that was initiated in the mid-1990s. Tucson Police Department (TPD) officers currently use a paper-based system to document the criminal and non-criminal incidents that they respond to. A small subset of this information is automated from the point that a caller contacts the police. The majority of the information contained in the police report is handwritten by field personnel based on data gathered during a response to a call for service. Later, data entry personnel enter a subset of the handwritten report information into department databases. However, a significant portion of the report, including the case narrative, is never automated at all. Accessing the non-automated portions of a police report can be a cumbersome process.
Many of the projects and activities accomplished over the last several years have been focused on improving our data capture, then using the information more effectively. The COPLINK project (described in depth later) was initiated in a partnership with the University of Arizona Artificial Intelligence Lab to improve our access to and analysis of investigative information already contained in various Department databases. In a concurrent project, our mission critical Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) and Records Management System (RMS) central computing systems were upgraded to provide the capacity for new systems, including an Automated Field Reporting System (AFRS). The AFRS will culminate many of the projects completed over the last few years by dramatically improving our data capture. Officers will no longer write all reports by hand. Officers will create reports electronically and the information will be immediately transferred into department databases. This will allow investigations to proceed far more quickly and effectively, and allow officers to use the sophisticated analysis tools being developed in other systems such as COPLINK. Vital case-solving information can be accessible immediately, and crime trends can be discovered and acted upon much more effectively through other programs such as the Department’s Targeted Operations Planning (TOP).
RMS is TPD’s system for case management, Uniform Crime Reporting (mandatory crime statistics reported to the FBI), and a variety of other functions. Data from the AFRS-generated electronic reports will be automatically loaded into RMS instead of being entered later by data-entry personnel as is the current practice. Data from AFRS will also be available to COPLINK. COPLINK will utilize virtually all information captured by the AFRS, warehousing the report information with other data sources for access by investigative and field personnel at TPD and other agencies. COPLINK will also utilize the AFRS information for crime analysis, Geo-mapping, and data mining.
The department has implemented a new Novell network of PCs loaded with the Microsoft Office Suite replacing the old office automation software that was accessible only from dumb terminals (computer access screens and keyboards with no computing power or storage of their own). This new network supports all of the activities described above, such as AFRS, COPLINK, and TOP, in addition to everyday office activities.
Mobile Tactical Computers
TPD has had computers in the cars since 1989. However, these were dumb terminals with no computing power of their own, and were not capable of accessing graphical images, such as mug photographs, and were not capable of running any of the modern PC-based computer programs. Using federal funding, the department has been replacing these older computers with PC-based Mobile Tactical Computers (MTCs). These new computers are enabling many new tools to be implemented for the officers, such as AFRS, MTC GUI, mug photos, COPLINK, and maps.
Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)
A project currently underway to support new software on the MTCs is the implementation of a high-speed wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). The current wireless access for the mobile computers in the cars is through a Motorola Radio Frequency (RF) network. This network provides good coverage for the mobile computers for applications such as CAD that must be accessible anywhere in the City. However, these types of wireless networks do not have the speed or capacity that a land network does for transferring large computer files (such as photographs or software updates). The WLAN being implemented will enable access points in strategic locations that supply high-speed network access for the MTCs. This will enable file transfers, new software downloads and updates, and access to graphics-rich applications such as COPLINK.
Radio Frequency Infrastructure Enhancements
This project expanded the number of TPD data radio frequencies to 15 and replaces obsolete equipment. This was a mandatory project to support automated field reporting and the MDT replacement project. TPD acquired five new FCC licenses in 1997 and took delivery of the minimum equipment to get the frequencies operational by October 8, 1998. Eight additional frequency licenses were granted by the FCC in May 2000. The enhancements needed to use these additional frequencies were completed in February 2002.
With these improvements in data capture and dissemination, many more possibilities exist to provide more efficient access to information to other criminal justice agencies and to the public. TPD implemented a public website in 1998 to improve public access to the Police Department information. The site now includes wanted criminals, crime statistics, online reporting of certain crimes, and access to collision reports.
The COPLINK Project is an ongoing research and development effort to provide cutting-edge investigative and collaborative tools for law enforcement. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Tucson Police Department (TPD), Phoenix Police Department (PPD), the University of Arizona (UA) Artificial Intelligence Lab (AI Lab) and Knowledge Computing Corporation (a commercial entity), all participate in this unique partnership. The project was originally initiated by TPD and funded by NIJ to create a system of integrated police databases with an intuitive interface.
Prior to this effort, no widely accepted system existed to share detailed investigative information between law enforcement agencies. State and federal databases typically contain limited, summarized information; detailed information critical to solving cases has been locked in incompatible stovepipe systems that limit information sharing between jurisdictions.
The software has been developed with continuous input from police officers, detectives and crime analysts. The system leverages sophisticated AI algorithms originally developed at the UA AI Lab for use in knowledge management applications primarily in the medical domain. COPLINK integrates databases at a regional (population center) level to help investigators catch criminals traveling between jurisdictions. Police agencies have no need to change their operational records systems; information is extracted from those systems into a COPLINK node. Regional systems can be linked to allow investigators to search information from other agencies as easily as their local COPLINK node.
The core software enables police officers to instantly uncover associations between people, locations, vehicles, weapons, and organizations in ways that were previously time and resource prohibitive. TPD has solved numerous serious criminal cases with the software. PPD has implemented the software and is preparing to deploy it department-wide. All 19 agencies in the Phoenix area have committed support and intend to participate in the project. COPLINK has gained interest and attention from law-enforcement agencies around the country, a number of which have formed consortiums to implement the system. The FBI and other federal agencies are exploring COPLINK as a tool to enable counter-terrorism efforts with state and local law enforcement agencies.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) continues to fund the AI Lab to pursue longterm research to enhance the COPLINK capabilities in visualization, textual analysis for data mining of case narratives, collaborative intelligent agent (spider), and other cutting-edge knowledge management technologies. TPD provides continuous support, direction, and domain expertise to the researchers to ensure the technologies will truly support law enforcement needs.
Additional information about the COPLINK project can be found at: