If you had to devise a “system” for enhancing communication within a given criminal justice organization, what would be its components?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Innumerable failures have occurred because of poor communications both within and between agencies or departments.  Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, the 9/11 Commission, conducted an extensive investigation into the reasons the attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the target that was saved by the actions of the passengers on the fourth aircraft, was so successful.  The reasons are too voluminous to recite here, but suffice to say that a systemic failure to communicate across agency lines was an important factor.  The Federal Aviation Administration didn't communicate well with the military, the Central Intelligence Agency didn't communicate well with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and so on.

Historically, law enforcement and national security agencies have not communicated well with each other.  That is a fact.  The question, however, is concerned with communications within an organization.  The reason why the above discussion of the 9/11 Commission report is relevant is because, within large criminal justice or law enforcement organizations, the same dynamics are at work.  Divisions within an agency often do not communicate with each other to the extent necessary for maximum effectiveness.  Each section or division acts as an independent fiefdom, jealously guarding its turf and its information, and only reluctantly sharing with others.

In order for communications within the organization to function smoothly, therefore, certain measures have to be adopted.  First, all computer and associated communications systems have to be compatible.  That may seem obvious, but if each division has its own budget with which to purchase information technologies, they may not all be compatible.  Consequently, the criminal justice organization must have a central information officer with the authority and the budget to ensure that each division has equipment that is compatible with every other division.  Certainly, some electronic barriers would be necessary, for instance, to protect particuarly sensitive law enforcement intelligence relating to an ongoing investigation, but those instances are few and far between.

Second, and most important, cultural inhibitions against sharing information must be eliminated.  Once again, that seems simple and obvious.  The fact remains, however, that cultural and bureaucratic obstacles to effective communications are very common inside all types of organizations, including those dedicated to public safety.  Each division head has to be held accountable for any failure to communicate within the organization.  That means that the top officials within the organization must stay on top of the matter to ensure communication breakdowns do not occur.  Failure to remain vigilant regarding the potential for such breakdowns where human relations are involved will invariably lead to problems.

These are the two components that come to mind.