I’m delighted to be here and to have the opportunity to celebrate HAPCOA’s three decades of leadership in representing our nation’s Hispanic law enforcement command personnel. At the Department of Justice, we value the unique perspective and experience you bring to criminal justice, and we are committed to working with you to secure the benefits of cultural diversity in our nation’s criminal justice system.

We’re about to become a little more diverse ourselves, with the President’s announcement of his intention to nominate Domingo Herraiz, most recently the director of the Ohio criminal justice planning agency, as the new director of our Bureau of Justice Assistance. We look forward to Domingo’s leadership at the helm of our law enforcement assistance branch.

Your conference agenda reflects many of the major challenges facing law enforcement today:
– the terrorist threat to America;
– the persistence of illegal drugs and drug-related crime;
– the cyber crimes that result from technological advancements such as the Internet;
– and the high-tech approach required for effective law enforcement in this electronic age.

The agenda also reflects the long-standing partnership between the Office of Justice Programs and law enforcement in working to address these challenges:
– the training and technical assistance that OJP supports;
– the research designed to inform criminal justice practice;
– the development and commercialization of new technology to improve law enforcement operations and protect the lives of law enforcement officers;
– and the funds we provide to state and local law enforcement agencies to make these advances possible.

I’d like to talk to you today about one of these OJP priority areas – ensuring that our nation’s law enforcement agencies are able to effectively share criminal intelligence and other information.

Since the September 11th terrorist attack on America, we’ve learned how important it is to share information among all levels of law enforcement, and to “connect the dots” to prevent terrorist and other criminal activity.

At the Office of Justice Programs, we’ve been working over the past two years to facilitate information-sharing among law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. For example, we’re working to expand RISS – the Regional Information Sharing System.

Traditionally, RISS has provided information-sharing services in the form of criminal intelligence databases and an investigative lead-generating electronic bulletin board. Information is shared among the six regional RISS centers and about 7,000 participating law enforcement member agencies through a secure Internet connection.

After 9/11, we realized that we needed to significantly expand the capacity and capabilities of RISS to enable law enforcement agencies at all levels of government to better share criminal intelligence. So, we’ve now linked RISS and LEO – the FBI’s Law Enforcement Online system – and are coordinating the operations of these two systems. LEO provides secure group e-mail capability, and thus serves as a complement to RISS.

RISS has traditionally been somewhat of a passive repository of information, capable of being searched by users, but not “pushing out” information to the field. Now, we’ll get the best of both worlds by linking the two systems. The combined system will provide a secure connection that will allow sensitive, but unclassified, information to be distributed quickly to all RISS and LEO users.

We are adding new databases to RISS, including several statewide intelligence databases. The addition of each database has the effect of increasing, exponentially, the value of the RISS network. Here’s one recent demonstration of the effectiveness of RISS in aiding an investigation. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the FBI office in Springfield, Missouri asked its regional RISS center to check the names of suspected terrorists through all of the various databases connected to RISS across the United States.

Information was found on three different suspects, in three different parts of the country, using information gleaned from three different databases. Although the information had been entered in the databases from disparate areas of the country and from various agencies, a single search by one RISS center was able to link all this information quickly.

In fact, some of the critical information in this case was gleaned from the California Bureau of Investigation database on the very day the State of California connected with RISS. This case demonstrates the urgent need to connect all state databases to RISS as quickly as possible.

RISS also serves as the communications backbone for another new initiative known as MATRIX – the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange. MATRIX provides the capability – in real time – to store, analyze, and exchange sensitive criminal activity information among agencies within a state, among states, and between state and federal agencies.

The system will allow users secure access to criminal history, driver’s license, vehicle registration, and a host of other information available in commercial databases. The MATRIX system, in a matter of seconds, can find patterns in these various databases, limiting a potentially huge field of suspects in a crime to just a few. And it can find people whose actions fit a pattern of terrorism identified by investigators, suggesting that further investigation of their activities may be warranted.

Here’s an example: a major task force in New England, investigating a series of murders, ran queries on the MATRIX factual data analysis application, which found the initial suspect in Florida and was able to rule him out immediately. Then, additional suspects with the same name were identified through further MATRIX searches, along with family members and address information. This new information resulted in warrants being served the next morning and a murder suspect being apprehended.

In another case, the task force received a lead regarding an individual who was believed to be an associate of one of the September 11th hijackers. An initial background query resulted in a real-time “link analysis.”

Those of you who have worked with link analysis know that it used to take investigators months of work to painstakingly piece together the family members, associations, former addresses, communications, and so on relating to a suspect, in order to link one suspect to another and thus to a crime, or to locate a suspect whose identity or location is unknown to investigators. This time, in seconds, the system identified an apartment leased by the wife of the target’s brother, which led investigators directly to their target. In today’s terrorist threat environment, real-time work like this is critical.

There is a related critical issue I’d like to address this afternoon, and that is communications interoperability. As you know all too well, when multiple public safety agencies respond to an incident, they’re often unable to communicate effectively with each other – or sometimes even with their own agencies – because their radio equipment is incompatible.

One tragic example occurred during the September 11th terrorist attack in New York City. While police and firefighters rushed up the stairs of the burning World Trade Center buildings, incident commanders outside could hear helicopter radio reports that the towers were dangerously close to collapse. They were able to warn their police officers via radio to vacate the buildings immediately. As a result, all but 60 officers escaped with their lives. Tragically, hundreds of New York City firefighters couldn’t hear that warning because they were using a different radio communications system. Three hundred and forty-three firefighters died in the World Trade Center terrorist attack that terrible day.

The Office of Justice Programs, through its National Institute of Justice, is working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and other partners to find solutions to this problem – developing standards for voice, data, image, and video communication systems. These solutions will allow multiple parties, using different systems, to exchange information on the spot.

We’re also working to develop other technologies to help law enforcement officials better – and more safely – investigate terrorism and other critical incidents. For example, we’re developing technologies to:
– detect concealed weapons;
– locate victims and suspects hidden behind walls;
– and warn responders or investigators of exposure to chemical and biological agents through a wearable detection device.

In addition, through 10 Law Enforcement Technology Assistance Centers throughout the country, we provide assistance to help public safety agencies choose appropriate technologies and apply them in real-world situations. Each center focuses on a specific area. I encourage you to use the resources offered through our Technology Centers.

I want to talk briefly about another major technology initiative, one that I believe will prove to be one of the most significant advances in criminal justice over several decades.

As you know, DNA technology has forever changed the way police investigate cases, collect crime scene evidence, and identify suspects. Better use of DNA evidence holds tremendous potential for increasing our capacity to solve crimes, convict the guilty, exonerate the innocent, and protect the public. To demonstrate the tremendous potential DNA evidence has for solving crimes, in March, President Bush launched an unprecedented federal initiative to advance the cause of justice through the use of DNA technology.

The President has proposed spending a total of more than $1 billion over the next 5 years in federal support for this effort. Through the President’s DNA initiative, we’ll provide resources to help law enforcement and other criminal justice practitioners more effectively collect, use, and analyze DNA evidence to solve cases. Next year, for example, we’ll provide almost $93 million to help eliminate the substantial backlog of DNA crime scene samples for the most serious violent offenses, as well as the backlog of convicted offender samples that have not yet been tested. We estimate that there are currently hundreds of thousands of crime scene samples in rape and homicide cases, alone, awaiting analysis, and additional hundreds of thousands of convicted offenders whose samples have not yet been entered into the DNA database.

We’ll use another $60 million next year to enhance the ability of crime labs to analyze DNA evidence. Our funds will help these labs employ technology – such as bar-coding, robotics, and advanced computer support – to analyze more samples, faster.

We’ll also use about $10 million to expand the capacity of CODIS – the national DNA database. This effort will improve state and local law enforcement’s access to the system and reduce search time from hours to microseconds. Under the President’s initiative, we’ll significantly expand the capacity of CODIS from its current 1.7 million DNA profiles to 50 million.

Another aspect of the DNA initiative is to stimulate research and development on DNA testing. We’re working to develop faster, less expensive methods of conducting DNA tests that will speed the testing of samples in forensic labs across the country.

The importance of training on the importance of DNA evidence was illustrated recently when an alert police officer in Prince George’s County, Maryland, used DNA evidence to identify a suspect wanted in a string of sexual assaults.

The officer stopped and questioned a man who matched a description of the rapist. After the suspect left, the officer bent down to pick up a napkin the man had used to blow his nose. DNA testing matched the evidence on the napkin to the DNA evidence recovered from the rape victims. The man was arrested and charged with first-degree rape, first-degree assault, burglary, and various handgun violations. And the residents in the neighborhood where the rapes occurred breathed a sigh of relief.

In another case in Texas, an investigator solved the rape of a local college student by requesting DNA testing on the phone cord used to choke the woman. The perpetrator had worn gloves, and the cord bore no fingerprints.

However, DNA testing revealed saliva on the phone cord. Evidently, the rapist had held the cord in his mouth while subduing the victim. The DNA evidence from the cord not only solved that case, but also a similar sexual assault in another city.

Without these officers’ knowledge of the crime-solving possibilities of DNA evidence, these cases might never have been solved, the perpetrators might still be free, and neighborhood residents might still be living in fear. We’ve allocated $17.5 million next year to support training for law enforcement and other criminal justice practitioners in the collection and use of DNA evidence.

I believe that the more widespread use of DNA and other technology is – without a doubt – the future of law enforcement in this country. I urge you – as a command officer in your agency – to do everything you can to encourage your department to embrace the use of DNA and other technology so that your officers are fully prepared to meet tomorrow’s challenges today.

In partnership with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, we’re implementing the Volunteers in Police Service – or VIPS – program. And, in partnership with the National Sheriffs’ Association, we’re working to expand the highly respected Neighborhood Watch Program.

For example, the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services will provide VIPS training through its Regional Community Policing Institutes. It also will provide funding – grants of up to $50,000 – that law enforcement agencies can use to hire VIPS program coordinators, purchase equipment for the program, or provide uniforms for VIPS volunteers. And I hope you’ll use your influence to engage your community’s residents in participating in the Citizen Corps Neighborhood Watch Program and VIPS.

Finally, I encourage you to embrace a national leadership role in addressing these and other law enforcement challenges. As members of the largest, and fastest growing, minority group in America, you have tremendous leverage in influencing law enforcement and other public policy.

So I urge you to use your position, your heritage, and your voice to increase the number of Hispanics serving as law enforcement officers throughout our nation; to ensure that Hispanic residents are treated fairly and appropriately by all members of law enforcement; and to encourage the decision makers in your jurisdictions to listen to the concerns of Hispanics and other minorities in setting criminal justice policy.

I commend all of you for your commitment to “preparing for tomorrow’s challenges today.” All of us at the Department of Justice are committed to working with you to advance law enforcement in this country, to protect the rights of all those who live in or visit this country, and to ensure the safety of their homes and neighborhoods. Thank you all very much.