Indiana State Police Technology Revolution Benefits Citizens and Officers
When many of today’s veteran Indiana State Police (ISP) troopers began their careers, their jobs were a relatively low-tech endeavor.
Chief of Staff Col. Mark French, who got his start at ISP in the 1990s, recalls checking a metal mailbox every three days to pick up a paper memo with his assignments and tasks. Those tasks were completed and documented using pen and paper, not computers.
Crash reports, for instance, were written in those days with accident scenes drawn by hand, reviewed by a supervisor, and then often started again from scratch to correct any mistakes. An ever-growing accumulation of criminal reports and trooper employee records filled countless file cabinets and racks in Indiana’s state police posts.
Major Michael White, the ISP Assistant Chief of Staff/Communications and Information Systems, recalls not knowing—and not needing to know—how to turn on a computer when he started as a trooper in 1994. Back then, White was unaware that he would eventually play a key role in an ISP information technology revolution that would transform services to citizens and impact the daily work life of troopers and subsequently garner national recognition.
After five years as a trooper, White, a former college music major, applied for and received a position as a computer generalist in the ISP information technology division. White dove into his new role by completing computer classes and training. During his first and second years in the IT Department, he was part of a team of six who laid the groundwork for the tech overhaul by running wires and installing computers throughout the ISP headquarters in Indianapolis and at 21 different sites around Indiana.
White later furthered his knowledge and skills by completing an MBA in Information Technology Management. Then, in 2013, ISP Superintendent Douglas Carter promoted White as ISP’s Chief Information Officer within the role of Assistant Chief of Staff responsible for Communications and Information Systems. It was during this time, under Carter’s administration, that the department began its technology resurgence in earnest.
“Troopers are from all walks of life, but usually not a corporate background or students of technology,” French said. “Mike White is one of those troopers. He came to the department as a young recruit, and early on, he said we can do better. He looked at things in a different way.”
The results of ISP’s technology revolution have been remarkable. A few examples:
- ISP digitized more than two million criminal history files (also known as jackets), vastly improving access to these records and freeing more than 25,000-square feet of space for other uses at the Indiana Government Center.
- Drivers throughout Indiana can now use a web-based tool for finding the safest routes and times of day to drive based on previous crash data.
- The process for applying for an Indiana concealed carry gun permit has been reduced from nearly 90 days to as few as three to four days.
- ISP is facilitating implementation of the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) by law enforcement agencies throughout Indiana that will provide much more detailed, comprehensive, and useful crime statistics for the state.
- ISP is implementing a modern training management system that will streamline training for its 1,250 troopers, ensure accuracy and legal defensibility of training records, and improve the trooper performance evaluation process.
A different way
One of the keys to ISP’s rapid information technology advancement is a team approach within a supportive environment, led by ISP Superintendent Douglas Carter and Col. French. This approach requires developing a talented team of dedicated information technology professionals. It also requires the IT team partnering with user groups throughout ISP in making and implementing IT decisions that impact their functional areas.
“I’ve had the right boss, who is really open to ideas, and the right team. They’ve supported and implemented my mad scientist ideas,” White said with a smile.
White’s so-called mad scientist approach is actually based in research and a passion for bringing innovation to state government information technology and law enforcement. He developed this approach based on concepts he learned during his studies in the MBA program at Western Governors University.
“I’ve brought a business approach to state government,” he said. “You can take a lot of the business management concepts and use them in IT management.”
In addition, ISP’s successes have come from high aspirations and persistence.
“It’s easy to be complacent in government IT, but you can’t be,” White said. “You have limitations in staff and resources. That can be a challenge. To me, it’s a good challenge.
“You trade up and trade up. You do what you can to get the most innovation within the limitations you are given.”
The Indiana State Police have overcome challenges to innovation in multiple ways that have aided Hoosier citizens and helped state troopers do their jobs effectively and efficiently. One of these ways, for instance, was to become one of the first state police agencies in the country to partner with a private vendor to manage IT disaster recovery for a mission-critical law enforcement system. This has protected the agency from the significant negative effects following a potential IT disaster, while avoiding additional expenses beyond previous expenditure levels.
“We are clearly better for the work Mike and his staff have done,” French said.
Records management modernization
One of the early challenges White’s team tackled was the inefficiency of maintaining more than two million criminal record jackets at ISP headquarters in the Indiana Government Center in Indianapolis. The files, kept on library racks, took up most of a wing of the ISP office and were labor-intensive to access and maintain. They also weighed more than a large SUV or truck, an estimated three tons.
White and his staff planned and oversaw the digital recording of these unwieldy criminal history records. Part of the 25,000 square feet that ISP was able to give back to the Indiana Department of Administration was used for much-needed space for administrative law hearings between the State of Indiana and citizens who had been denied licenses to carry handguns. The new court provides designated areas for officers, judges, citizens appealing their denials, and witnesses in what can be contentious hearings.
“We were able to give back space in the state offices, which are full,” French said. “With the state renting space in other places downtown, this was important. Making our management of criminal record jackets more efficient was very important.”
Revamping the license to carry a handgun process
Between 2012-2013, at a time when approved licenses to carry handguns in Indiana rose from roughly 64,000 to 116,000 annually, the existing system couldn’t handle the increase. That system involved completing a paper application at the county sheriff’s office or municipal police department, which was investigated through a manual review of an applicant’s criminal records. As a “shall issue” state, Indiana statutes require a decision on license to carry applications within 60 days, but the State found itself 110 days out of compliance because of the explosion in applications.
“We turned to Mike and said let’s fix this process”, French recalled. “Go take a hard look at it.”
White and his team came up with a plan for centralized online applications with basic screening questions under a revamped system in which most applications could be reviewed automatically using already existing criminal databases, making local checks easier. Within two months of implementing the new system, license applications were back within the 60-day statutory limit for a decision. Now, most applications are decided within a three-day turnaround.
“What might have taken 90 to 100 days is now down to three or four days,” French said. “This is a huge improvement in efficiency for applicants and local agencies.”
ISP became the first Indiana agency to participate in the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) in 2011. In doing so, it also took on a key role in facilitating local agencies throughout Indiana in reporting NIBRS data, which will be required nationwide by the end of 2020.
ISP’s leadership in moving NIBRS forward was especially important because Indiana was one of the last two states to report NIBRS data to the FBI, and most local agencies in Indiana did not report NIBRS data just a few years ago. The switch to detailed, comprehensive incident-based reporting can be challenging for local police agencies, which often lack resources and expertise in databases and other needed technology. The agency’s goal was to act as a conduit between local agencies and the FBI, which collects the NIBRS data.
Modeled after the top NIBRS programs across the country, Indiana NIBRS:
- Allows agencies to participate using a wizard-based form completed by their officers on a statewide portal that is free to them, or by submission from their own NIBRS-compliant Records Management System.
- Allows compliance with Indiana Code regarding submission and reporting of statewide crime statistics including Bias Crimes.
- Provides a central repository for real-time crime statistics. Each agency can retrieve their own data or share data with other agencies.
- Provides data analytics produced by Indiana’s Management Performance Hub (MPH).
The NIBRS data will provide Indiana agencies with a greater depth of knowledge about local, regional, and state crime and crime trends for strategic policing and effective use of resources.
“The benefits for the state are huge,” said Sergeant Ray Benn, ISP’s Statewide NIBRS Coordinator. “We have never had reporting and access to crime data that is collected in the same way and available in one place.”
Training records modernization
ISP launched another innovative IT project in 2017 to implement a modernized training management system called the Acadis® Readiness Suite®. This system improves the management and tracking of ISP’s classroom, online, and in-service training, as well as certification and employment management for the state’s 1,250 sworn law enforcement officers. White and his team chose Acadis, developed by Envisage Technologies of Bloomington, Indiana, because its modular structure allows a customer to manage multiple critical functions within a single system, while purchasing only those modules most relevant to their needs.
ISP began by implementing course registration, testing, and performance evaluation functions. The system is helping ISP manage and track training for firearms qualifications and proficiency, and deliver first responder training to equip troopers with the tools to deal with situations such as terrorist attacks and other large-scale emergencies. It is also using Acadis to track records of its In-Service Training School, which ensures troopers stay current on the latest law enforcement information and trends.
“We are obligated to report training and certification data for every trooper to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy central repository. We were doing it in a very paper-intensive, staff-intensive way,” French said. “This opens up opportunities we never had before. Where we had 15 people driving 30 to 40 minutes to the post, they can access training online now wherever they are.”
White said ISP is saving money by needing fewer technology systems than it did previously and increasing efficiency by bringing its training and records to troopers who are equipped with laptop computers in their vehicles, rather than traveling to the nearest post.
“Acadis is available in their cars or wherever they are,” White said. “It saves time and money. And it’s not our money, it is tax dollars.”
Crash data/computer-aided law enforcement
The project that has generated the greatest number of public accolades is a Predictive Crash Tool, which shows the probability of accidents across the state within three-hour windows throughout the day. Probabilities are calculated using a combination of weather, traffic, road conditions, time of day, historical information, and census data.
The idea for the site came from a similar data analytics undertaking launched by the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Developed in partnership with the Indiana Management Performance Hub, the Indiana project is fortunate, White said, to have more data to work with than was the case in Tennessee.
“For years, we collected data, everything from crash reports to incident report data to ticket data, first through paper and later through electronic records,” White said. “This was data we collected with no thought of innovation, no thought of the wealth of information available within that data.”
Data from more than 2 million crashes, dating back to 2004, laid the foundation for the forecast model, but not all of those crashes are represented on the map. For clarity and ease of use, only pertinent crash information is included on the platform.
The likelihood of a fatal or non-fatal accident is then ranked from very low risk to high risk, which is color-coded on a map of the state. Blue indicates a low probability, yellow indicates a moderate probability, and red indicates a high probability. The map is available to citizens and law enforcement officers at www.in.gov/isp/3268.htm
“It’s easy to use and serves the public’s needs,” said Captain Larry Jenkins, a key member of White’s team. “This is another project where we have been very blessed by having great personnel on our team. We keep moving forward.”
In addition to extensive media coverage in and outside of Indiana, the project resulted in White winning a 2017 State Leadership of the Year award from StateScoop 50, which reports nationally on technology best practices. The StateScoop 50 awards honor innovative projects and state government information technology executives and leaders.
This award came after members of state and local IT communities nominated thousands of government leaders in March 2017. StateScoop narrowed the list to the top 150 with the most nominations, and StateScoop readers cast more than 100,000 votes nationally in April to select the final 50 winners, including White.
In addition, ISP and its partner, the Indiana Management Performance Hub, received a 2017 Special Achievement in GIS Award from Esri, a global company committed to innovation in science, sustainability, education, research, and positive change.
French said the crash data project, like others that White and his IT team have completed, will have a significant positive impact on Indiana citizens and the troopers who serve them.
“If you think back to the days of handling crash records with a straight edge and a bottle of white out, our progress is huge,” French said. “Now, we need to keep moving, or we’ll be left behind.”