Police car speeding toward clouds on horizon

Police ready to lock up mission-critical apps in the cloud

Police agencies expect to use a wider range of cloud applications within the next two years, moving beyond the deployment of e-mail, currently the most popular application in cloud infrastructures, according to a survey of high-ranking law enforcement professionals from The International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Police brass are considering moving more mission-critical applications to the cloud, including those that access Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) data, along with storage, records management, crime reporting, and mapping and analysis systems, according to the survey of officials in 272 IACP member agencies.

Fifty-four percent of the respondents indicated that they had implemented, were planning to, or were considering implementing cloud-based solutions in the next two years.

Seventeen percent are already using e-mail in the cloud. But many police officials are thinking about moving a broader range of applications, with 51 percent considering CJIS access; 50 percent thinking of cloud storage; 46 percent for e-mail; and 47 percent contemplating moving records management, crime reporting, and mapping and analysis systems.

Results of the survey, conducted by IACP, SafeGov.org and the Ponemon Institute, were presented during a January  31 symposium on leveraging cloud computing in law enforcement sponsored by SafeGov in Washington, D.C.

“Agencies are at the cusp of a broad migration of applications over the next few years,” said Jeff Gould, president of SafeGov and CEO of Peerstone Research.  Back-up, disaster recovery and e-mail are the applications that officials think are most suited for the cloud,  but they are skeptical of doing the same for applications used for emergency communications, such as computer-aided dispatch, Gould said.

“No one is excited about putting CAD” in the cloud, said Paul Wormeli, executive director emeritus of the Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute and a participant on the panel.

“We are on the cusp of a strong acceptance of the cloud in law enforcement, but there is still skepticism,” said Wormeli, who recently wrote a report,  “Mitigating Risks in the Application of Cloud Computing in Law Enforcement,” to help police officials overcome some of their major concerns about moving mission-critical applications to the cloud.  Wormeli found that the major worries of the law enforcement community include cloud reliability and availability, performance requirements, costs of migration and the recovery of data.

Forty-six percent of the agencies in the IACP survey, who indicated they were not adopting cloud computing, said they were concerned that their current applications are not being offered as cloud-based solutions. Forty-four percent said cloud-based services do not provide sufficient security for law enforcement systems.

By a large majority, 87 percent of survey respondents, said they want IACP to develop model clauses for cloud procurement contracts banning inappropriate or unauthorized use of customer data by cloud providers and reinforcing the confidentiality and security requirements of law enforcement.

“Truth is, all of the objections can be overcome,” Wormeli said.  Many police departments are probably involved with the cloud and just don’t know it, he noted. For instance, some might use Esri’s geographic information systems mapping capabilities in the cloud or a subcontractor that has deployed a records management system within a cloud infrastructure. All of the data on these types of cloud usage is not available yet, he said.

Wormeli emphasized the need to educate police officials on how cloud computing can be effectively deployed for law enforcement. He also noted there are many smaller agencies will need the cloud to keep up with information technology.

“There is no way smaller agencies are ever going to have access to information technology that they really need without cloud,” Wormeli said. Those agencies can’t afford the technology and industry is more focused on the larger agencies, he noted.  If the states and industry do not figure out how to deliver cloud capability – software-as-a-service-based CAD and other applications – the smaller agencies won’t benefit.  “We’ve learned from the 9/11 [terrorist attacks] that smaller agencies do matter,” he said.

IACP also released "Guiding Principles on Cloud Computing in Law Enforcement” at the symposium, developed in collaboration with key law enforcement subject matter experts from around the nation as well as experts from SafeGov.org.

The IACP principles focus on addressing some of the most tangible benefits that cloud computing offers, including cost savings, rapid deployment of critical resources, off-site storage and disaster recovery as well as meeting dynamic operational needs, while maintaining the security of systems and the proper use of data.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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