FBI puts police chiefs in the security loop

FBI puts police chiefs in the security loop

The Justice Department will let police chiefs from cities, counties and other municipalities apply for national security clearance that would put them in the information-sharing loop during national emergencies.

Barry McDevitt, chief of police for the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, said Attorney General John Ashcroft made the decision because many police chiefs had difficulty getting information after terrorists struck on Sept. 11.

Sharing information and using IT to improve intergovernmental relationships was at the heart of the discussion at a Homeland Defense and Crisis Management Conference this week in Washington.

'We need to deal with the organizational structure of all government agencies,' said George Foresman, deputy state coordinator of emergency management for Virginia. 'Technology is just a tool to communicate better, but we have to straighten out the relationships first.'

One of the biggest barriers to communication is the number of disparate databases used at the federal, state and local levels, said keynote speaker Mary Schiavo, a former Transportation Department inspector general and now a partner in a Washington law firm.

'The focus must be on coordinating the 40,000-plus databases at all levels of government,' she told the audience of about 400. 'This must be a function of the Homeland Security Office through an expansion of the office's power from Congress.'

Speakers at the conference covered a wide range of topics, from a national identification card for noncitizens, the need for better integration among systems, and the cultural problems that obstruct improved communication.

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