- By Joab Jackson
- Apr 26, 2005
Ex-trooper McCreary gets federal, state and local law enforcement agencies together on data-sharing
Patrick McCreary, Justice
The challenge? Get a wide range of law enforcement organizations to solve a problem as technically and politically thorny as sharing information across multiple legacy systems.
The kicker? Persuade them to get on board and modify their own programs without offering much'or, in some cases, any'financial assistance.
Such a task requires considerable diplomacy, empathy and industriousness. Those words, colleagues say, also describe James Patrick McCreary, a senior adviser at the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance.
As much as any single person can be responsible for the success of a large federal initiative, McCreary has shepherded into existence the Global Justice XML Data Model, a data dictionary for sharing criminal justice information. In the age of failed information sharing projects, Global JXDM's success has been impressive. It's used by more than 200 state, local and federal criminal justice and law enforcement agencies.
First-hand experience at the local law-enforcement level has helped. Prior to coming to Justice, he was a trooper for the Indiana State Police for 21 years.
'His work with the Global group has been instrumental in helping define the data formats,' said Steve Correll, executive director of the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, a state-funded system that lets police officers get information from other states on criminal suspects.Setting a standard
Although NLETS itself had been in place for more than 30 years, the Global JXDM program made enough sense to spur NLETS to redo its proprietary system'which handles 41 million transactions per month'to talk in the Global JXDM tongue.
Global JXDM is overseen by the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative, a Justice Department-run coalition of law enforcement agencies that oversees information sharing projects. McCreary serves as the federal contact, working with local, state and tribal agencies, national associations, academic institutions, private companies and other agencies.
'The state and local people have always been looking for some leadership from the federal partners, and Pat has stepped up and said, 'Hey, we may not be able to give you all the funding, but we can certainly point you in the right direction,' ' Correll said.
In 2001, when the project was getting under way, it was clear to IT program managers that the Extensible Markup Language would be the common language to tie together criminal justice systems. The problem was that many, diverse XML projects were already started. In effect, the law enforcement community was building an XML Tower of Babel.
McCreary found three completely different'and not particularly compatible'XML efforts were in the works. His first goal was to get organizations to settle on one standard.
'We realized the significance of trying to meet the needs of the field. They were desperately seeking guidance and leadership to help develop standards,' McCreary said.
Today, JXDM is a full-fledged XML framework, including a data model, a data dictionary and a 2,700-element XML schema. The group is now looking to extend the model into Web services. And the Justice and Homeland Security departments are using Global JXDM as the basis for a governmentwide data-sharing model, called the National Information Exchange Model.
McCreary downplays his own contributions, saying that it was a team effort and that he only acted as 'facilitator.'
'One of the things is to try to be a good listener. You don't have to be an expert. You don't have to know all the answers. It's probably better if you don't. It forces you to ask questions,' he said. 'And that's the way to build consensus.'
People who know McCreary describe his style as easygoing.
'He is very easy to work with. He is very low key but very focused and organized,' said Cabell Cropper, executive director of the National Criminal Justice Association.
'He knows how to say thank you, and does so frequently,' said Paul Wormeli, executive director of the Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute, a Justice-funded nonprofit that assists law enforcement agencies in implementing JXDM.
'I think he understands the frustration people feel.,' Correll said, referring to McCreary's state police background. 'In the perfect world, the feds would come across with a billion dollars and allow everyone to move to XML,' Instead, the agency must work as a pied piper to bring along the different agencies.
McCreary works some long hours. He's at his desk every morning frequently before 7 a.m., and sometimes doesn't turn out the lights until 6 p.m. or later. But he attributes even his diligence to others.
'I have to thank my wife for allowing me to put in the hours,' McCreary said.
Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.