THE MAGAZINE

Smashing Intelligence Stovepipes

By Joseph Straw

While government is notoriously slow to implement change, one post-9-11 reform has bucked the trend: the rapidly growing national network of state, regional, and urban intelligence fusion centers. At the centers, teams of analysts crunch data and produce refined intelligence to help stakeholders address all hazards and all crimes. Nearly all of the country’s more than 40 centers were established between 2003 and 2007, and as many as 15 more are planned.

The rapid expansion has not come without growing pains, however. Administrators continue to define roles, set best practices, and secure permanent funding. And the centers have had some trouble involving private sector partners, who remain hesitant to share proprietary information with the government.

One center that is serving as a model for others is the Washington Joint Analytical Center (WAJAC) in Washington State. It “has been one of those great success stories in terms of pulling people together and getting them to shed their parochial interests to share information,” says Washington State Emergency Management Division (EMD) Director Jim Mullen, whose agency works with the center.

A Head Start

Most states began the march toward intelligence fusion only after 9-11. But law enforcement agencies in Washington State, as in a few other regions, were already on their way, having adopted the emerging discipline of intelligence-based policing. As the term implies, the process calls for collection and close analysis of a broad base of information to track and solve crimes or, ideally, to prevent them.

In the late 1990s, the Intelligence Committee of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police (WASCP), which enjoys quasi-governmental authority under state law, began pushing an intelligence-based approach to law enforcement. After 9-11, that effort broadened into a push for a statewide

Integrated intelligence initiative, which, with the support of the FBI, the Washington State Patrol (WSP), and then-Gov. Gary Locke’s Committee on Terrorism, led to the establishment of WAJAC in 2004. The center came under the operational command of the WSP, but administered through WASCP. Its board of directors consists of six state police chiefs and the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. WSP Chief John Batiste is the board’s current chair.

The state was divided into nine regional intelligence groups (RIGs), each of which is charged with assigning personnel to review regional law enforcement activity and forward reports to WAJAC in Seattle, together forming the Statewide Intelligence Network.

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