Road to justice leads through the Web in Oregon

Road to justice leads through the Web in Oregon

Information systems team finds way to make county's database systems work together through portal

By Trudy Walsh

GCN Staff

Multnomah County is blazing an electronic Oregon Trail with a consolidated law enforcement system that lets justice agencies share data easily and securely.

Two years ago, the Oregon county had nine different law enforcement databases interspersed among an uncharted wilderness of four systems, said Tom Simpson, information systems manager for Multnomah's District Attorney's Office.

Some of the systems, such as the District Attorney's Office database and the sheriff's database, were written in DB2 and resided on the county mainframe. Others were written in Adabas from Software AG of North America Inc. of Reston, Va.

Authorized users in Multnomah can access nine law enforcement databases through their PCs' Web browsers using Viador's E-Portal

Yet each agency needed to track offenders through the justice system 'from street to cell,' Simpson said. It could easily take a month for users to collect data from all nine databases.

But members of Multnomah's justice community knew they didn't want one grand-design justice system, Simpson said. 'The reality is, we've got four systems, and we'll probably always have four systems. How can we make them work together?'

The information systems team decided to keep the data where it was and link the systems through a single Web portal. Each agency sent its data to an Oracle8 data mart that runs on a Compaq Computer Corp. server under Microsoft Windows NT.

The team chose Viador E-Portal software from Viador Inc. of San Mateo, Calif., to offer users one Web interface to the disparate data.

Security is big

Security is a huge concern, Simpson said, and described briefing members of the police department about the new $1.4 million system, called the Decision Support System (DSS).

'One of the policemen stopped me and said, 'Well, if it's on the Internet, then my 14-year-old could hack into it,' ' Simpson said. 'I told him that I'd like to see his son try. We're using the same security systems that Charles Schwab [and Co. Inc. of San Francisco] uses to deliver mutual fund information over the Web. It's way beyond the normal security.'

In addition to the usual safeguards such as passwords and Secure Sockets Layer encryption, the DSS portal requires a unique user identification code for each session.

If there is no user activity within a given period, the ID code expires, and the system logs off automatically.

The county boosted data protection with a virtual private network, Simpson said.

DSS' 50 users are particularly enthusiastic about the offender report.

A law enforcement official can access an offender's record and track his history through the Multnomah criminal justice system, from incident report through warrant, arrest, court history, prosecution and conviction.

'DSS doesn't necessarily answer questions. It makes you ask better questions. You can't put a price on better decisions,' Simpson said. 'DSS can get us closer to doing the right thing.'


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