Tech Highlights


Information Sharing via SharePoint: Experience from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

Weston Morrow
Justice Innovation Center
Arizona State University

Communication and information sharing are vital tasks for law enforcement agencies. They provide agencies with both intelligence and tactical information—critical for officer and community safety. Without these capabilities, officers are unable to respond to emergency situations quickly, safely, and effectively. This is especially true in places like the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona, which covers an expansive 88 square miles.
To enhance operations, the 118-officer Salt River Police Department (SRPD) is using a Microsoft SharePoint system, which works in conjunction with agency-provided smart phones. Implemented in 2010 and upgraded in 2014, the system centralizes and organizes information, making it available to any officer with an internet connection. “It is the one official location that all our officers and detectives have access to,” reports Assistant Police Chief Auerbach. While the SRPD chose SharePoint as its communication and information sharing solution, the benefits it has since realized and the challenges the agency has overcome may be instructive for other agencies, regardless of the specific info-sharing tool chosen.

Benefits of the information sharing system
Assistant Police Chief Auerbach finds the system’s centralization of information and documents invaluable because “we don’t have different websites and different places to go for forms, or scattered information.”

Officers in the field find it useful because they can, for example, use suspect photos held in SharePoint to quickly identify individuals, access gang intelligence or vehicle information, and review traffic collision reports. During investigative activities, officers and detectives can access briefing notes, confidential referrals, or any needed forms.

The system assists the agency in maintaining consistency in its public safety efforts, by providing access to information on tribal, state, and federal laws, and department policies and procedures: “If we are on scene and we want to make sure we are doing everything by the books, it’s on the SharePoint system,” explains Sergeant Rangel. And the use of e-forms available through the system ensures more uniformity and standardization of reporting tasks, another major system benefit.

SharePoint is also used to help make staff allocations more efficient by tracking training schedules and recording time off requests. The system is also used to distribute announcements and advisories to SRPD staff.

Cross-agency information sharing
It’s not unusual for the SRPD to be involved in investigations or cases that involve multiple agencies and jurisdictions: the agency’s information sharing system allow its officers to easily bridge the gaps between all involved stakeholders. SRPD can grant other agencies access to certain information on the SharePoint system. For example, in cases involving crimes against a child, the SRPD may be in contact with the tribal, county, or federal prosecutor’s office, child protective services, a family advocacy center, health and human services, social services, and crisis intervention services. The SharePoint system provides a secure and quick way to transfer key information to actors in all agencies, reducing the administrative burden of such cases on agency staff.

Implementation lessons
The implementation of the SharePoint system was not without challenges, and other departments may want to consider SRPD’s experiences prior to adopting such technology.

First, an effective SharePoint system requires a reliable communications infrastructure, so that officers are able to receive cell phone coverage in the field.

Second, strong—and supportive—leadership is key to getting staff to adopt a new system. At SRPD, some officers were reluctant to embrace the SharePoint system because they had their own reporting habits. To get past this challenge, Auerbach emphasizes that “You have to have the right leadership in the right places that are committed and courageous enough to say ‘we want to embrace this [technology] change.’”

Third, a competent and capable IT department is critical to success. The IT department must be able to maintain the system and to ensure the integrity of confidential information, using such approaches as password protections, firewalls, and server encryptions. One Detective advised that success depends on including “someone who speaks police and someone who speaks IT” in the process. This makes sure usability and data integrity are both maintained.

Overall, the SharePoint system has far exceeded the SRPD’s expectations, proving itself to be a cornerstone technology in the agency’s mission to maintain public safety in the community in a respectful and professional manner.

For departments interested in the SharePoint system, the SRPD is very willing to answer any questions and provide general information regarding their experience with the system.

Providing court services to geographically remote county constituents: The Mohave
County experience with a video kiosk

Samantha Cherney
Justice Innovation Center
RAND Corporation


Mohave County in Arizona spans the Grand Canyon, meaning that for years residents in the of the Beaver Dam area on the north rim of the canyon had to travel several hours to access the county courthouse south of the Canyon. To improve services for these residents, the court considered opening a second courthouse, but the cost of $150,000 was far outside the county’s budget.

So the Court looked for a different kind of solution—a technological one that didn’t require moving the courthouse or building a new one. The Mohave County Superior Court IT department investigated the use of a kiosk that would allow Beaver Dam residents to meet with county judges and court personnel by video from a local government building. When an off-the-shelf video kiosk was too expensive for the court, IT staff Kyle Rimel and Jim Pan built one for about half the cost—between $5,000 and $6,000, with monthly operating costs of just $75 a month (the cost of the kiosk’s Internet connection). 

A key advantage of the kiosk is that it uses the court’s existing videoconferencing system, which the North Canyon court was already using for arraignments and pretrial procedures, interpreter services, and hearings that involved judges teleconferencing in from other courtrooms. Because court staffers were familiar with the system, using the kiosk required virtually no training.

Located in the Beaver Dam Motor Vehicles Division building, the kiosk appears to be easy to use for court hearings. When Judge Barbara Brown or a court clerk gives defendants the option of using the kiosk, they can request to use the kiosk for hearings that require an appearance but don’t involve mandatory jail time, such as driving on a suspended license or animal control violations. When defendants arrive for their scheduled hearings, they click a button labeled “chat,” and inform the clerk they are ready. The court then initiates the call, which the defendant picks up with the telephone handset.

The kiosk has several other uses as well. People can use the chat function to talk to the clerk, and individuals have used it to ask questions about civil filings. Various court forms can be printed free of charge at the kiosk. The kiosk can also access the county’s website, so residents with no Internet access can use the kiosk to make online payments and find relevant information.

Today, residents of the Beaver Dam area—many of whom have no vehicles—no longer have to find a way to travel the nearly three hours round-trip to the courthouse to conduct many types of court business, including appearing at court hearings. The North County Court kiosk offers simple, seemingly cost-effective, access to justice for their geographically isolated residents.