Evaluation of National Institute of Justice–Funded Geospatial Software Tools

Technical and Utility Assessments to Improve Tool Development, Dissemination, and Usage

by Carolyn Wong, Paul Sorensen, John S. Hollywood

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Research Questions

  1. Do National Institute of Justice tool-development awards result in fully functional tools for law enforcement?
  2. What can the National Institute of Justice do to increase the benefits that future tool development has for law enforcement?

A geospatial software tool-evaluation study conducted for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) assessed 14 recent tool developments funded by NIJ. The study integrates input from tool developers and tool users with RAND Corporation researchers' independent tool assessments. The evaluation finds that 12 of the 14 NIJ development awards resulted in fully functional tools for the law enforcement community. Collectively, the tools provided the law enforcement community with access to new and enhanced geospatial capabilities to improve crime analysis. From a holistic perspective of NIJ's tool-development efforts, the evaluation finds that NIJ can maximize benefits on future tool developments by addressing several apparent policy gaps and inconsistencies with respect to awardee requirements and oversight, including ensuring that policies assign NIJ or Department of Justice officials roles and responsibilities for the latter phases of software development, including integration and test, implementation, operations and maintenance, and disposition; developing tool-dissemination plans; establishing go-to sources for tool-deployment notifications; establishing a process and source of funding to address limitations in the initial version of the tool, such as a small post–tool-delivery modification fund; and taking the lead to address emerging interoperability and information-sharing issues. Acting on these recommendations will ensure that NIJ consistently maximizes benefits to the law enforcement community from its future tool development awards.

Key Findings

Most National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Tool-Development Grants Result in Fully Functional Tools

  • The evaluation finds that 12 of the 14 NIJ development grants resulted in fully functional tools for the law enforcement community. Collectively, the tools provided the law enforcement community with access to new and enhanced geospatial capabilities to improve crime analysis.

The National Institute of Justice Can Take Steps to Increase the Benefits That Future Tool Development Has for Law Enforcement

  • From a holistic perspective of NIJ's tool-development efforts, the evaluation finds that NIJ can maximize benefits on future tool developments by addressing several apparent policy gaps and inconsistencies with respect to grantee requirements and oversight, including expanding the roles and responsibilities of NIJ or Department of Justice (DOJ) officials to ensure that an NIJ or DOJ office has responsibility for the latter phases of software development efforts; developing tool-dissemination plans; establishing go-to sources for tool-deployment notifications; establishing a process and source of funding to address limitations in the initial version of the tool, such as a small post--tool-delivery modification fund; and taking the lead to address emerging interoperability and information-sharing issues.
  • Acting on these recommendations will ensure that NIJ consistently maximizes benefits to the law enforcement community from its future tool development grants.

Recommendations

  • The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) should address policy gaps and inconsistencies with respect to awardee requirements and oversight, including ensuring that policies assign NIJ or Department of Justice officials roles and responsibilities for the latter phases of software development, including integration and test, implementation, operations and maintenance, and disposition.
  • NIJ should develop tool-dissemination plans for all tool developments.
  • NIJ should establish easily accessible go-to sources for tool-deployment notifications.
  • NIJ should establish a process and source of funding to address limitations in the initial version of a tool, such as a small post--tool-delivery modification fund.
  • NIJ should proactively take the lead to address emerging interoperability and information-sharing issues related to law enforcement.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Methodology and Data Collection

  • Chapter Three

    Tool Assessments

  • Chapter Four

    Overall Evaluations, Findings, and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    ISO/IEC 12207:2008 and Software Life-Cycle Models

The research described in this report was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and conducted in the Safety and Justice Program within RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment.

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