The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police has completed the implementation of a system that allows the province’s police agencies to query each other’s databases for information on criminals and predators across jurisdictions.
The deadline was extended by three months after the OACP asked the provincial government for more time to complete 27 projects that affect or deal with all police agencies in Ontario.
“We probably wouldn’t have been able to get them all completed if we hadn’t had the extension to the 31st of March of this year,” said Hamilton Police Services Deputy Chief Tom Marlor.
The $11 million Municipal Technology Grant Fund was a two-year initiative that was originally supposed to end on December 31, 2005 but was moved.
“There was an overwhelming interest in more police being able to use the hardware,” said Ashley Dent, spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. “(OACP) approached the Minister and asked for an extension and the extension was granted, which enabled police forces, in many cases, to finish the work that they had started.”
The deadline was pushed out to the end of March to make it possible for the police to finish their work by the government’s fiscal year-end, said Anthony Brown, who works in the communications branch at the Ministry.
“The project implementation was close to complete but not quite there,” said Brown.
The system, which neither the government or OACP could name, will help reduce the ability of serial criminals and predators to move between jurisdictions undetected, according to the OACP.
Marlor, who is also co-chair of the Common Police Environment Group, a sub-committee of the OACP, said Hamilton, for example, shares boundaries with multiple regions including Halton, Niagara, Kitchener and Waterloo. Criminals often go back and forth between these borders, he added.
“In the past if I was an investigator investigating a case and thought there was a linkage to Halton, I would pick the phone up and call my counterpart there for him to check his database and have him fax me the information,” said Marlor.
While this is easy to do with bordering jurisdictions, it becomes another matter when dealing with out-of-province cases. Now, with the proper security measures such as ID, password and tokens, police agencies in Ontario can share information with those in Vancouver, for example.
“Regrettably, we have not been able to query each other’s systems,” said Marlor. “We’ve had a national (Canadian Police Information Centre) system that shows who’s wanted but it doesn’t allow us to check into each other’s databases.”
With the new system in place, not only will officers be able to search other databases, they also will have instantaneous updates on people who are put on probation. In the past, the probation office would send a paper to the local police department, which, in turn, would put that same information into the police computer systems.
“By making a linkage between the two systems, when probation and parole puts it into their system, it automatically links into ours,” said Marlor, adding it save Hamilton one full time person and could potentially save a big agency like Toronto five or six staff. “We save resources and we’ve also had the capability of getting it into the hands of everyone almost instantaneously.”
The government has funded similar systems in the past such as the Major Case Management (MCM) system, which deals exclusively with murders and sexual assaults. In that case, the government committed $5 million a year to cover the software, hardware and training costs associated with the MCM.