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Law Enforcement Fusion Centers: Cultivating an Information Sharing Environment while Safeguarding Privacy

Abstract

The national network of fusion centers, of which there are currently 78 nationwide, was created in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and continue to play an integral role in contemporary law enforcement. Their mission, put simply, is to facilitate information sharing across disparate agencies and organizations. Despite a significant presence within the law enforcement landscape, fusion centers have received relatively minimal scholarly attention. This limited literature alludes to operational challenges and public concerns that inhibit fusion center effectiveness. More specifically, little information is known about how fusion centers develop relationships with external partners as well as institute mechanisms to safeguard against violations of individual privacy. The present research employs a combination of national survey data and three in-depth case studies of fusion centers in Florida, Nevada, and Michigan to provide initial answers to these questions. Implications for improved policy and practice are discussed.

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Notes

  1. Racial profiling, violations of privacy and the abridgement of First Amendment protections of expressive activity are the most commonly expressed concerns.

  2. Grant award number 2008-IJCX-0007 from the National Institute of Justice, US Department of Justice.

  3. The most responses from within a single fusion center was three, which occurred for two centers. Ten fusion centers had two respondents while the remaining 70 fusion centers in the study had a single survey respondent. The findings to follow present responses from all 96 survey respondents as this approach was deemed most appropriate by the research team to reflect perceptions of fusion center practices. For diagnostic purposes, a complex survey design in STATA (ICv14) was employed to adjust for clustered responses from respondents within the same fusion center. Not surprisingly, given minimal multiple responses from the same center and the present research’s focus on descriptives, the findings were consistent.

  4. http://www.dhs.gov/fusion-center-locations-and-contact-information

  5. The Privacy Policy is a national standard required of each fusion center in order to receive federal funding.

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Correspondence to Jeremy G. Carter.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 2 Glossary for Acronyms

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Carter, J.G., Carter, D.L., Chermak, S. et al. Law Enforcement Fusion Centers: Cultivating an Information Sharing Environment while Safeguarding Privacy. J Police Crim Psych 32, 11–27 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-016-9199-4

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Keywords

  • Fusion center
  • Law enforcement intelligence
  • Information sharing