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Overview of the Department of State Police's Commonwealth Fusion Center

This section describes the makeup and responsibilities of the Department of State Police's Commonwealth Fusion Center.

Table of Contents

Background

The Department of State Police’s Commonwealth Fusion Center (CFC) operates within the Criminal Information and Intelligence Section of the Massachusetts State Police, under the direction of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS). According to Executive Order 476, CFC is the principal state repository for threat-related information, including criminal activity, threats to public safety, and terrorist activity. Its components (see Appendix A) provide a variety of functions for federal, state, regional, and local public-safety agencies, as well as a variety of public- and private-sector entities, to facilitate the receipt, analysis, and sharing of this critical information.

According to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website, as of the time of our audit, there were 79 state and major urban area fusion centers across the United States. Fusion centers are focal points for the sharing of information between federal agencies and state and local governments. Information is gathered at the state and local levels; analyzed; and, when warranted, disseminated to the appropriate federal, state, local, tribal, or private-sector officials. In turn, federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and DHS share intelligence and analysis with fusion centers, which may issue bulletins, briefings, and assessments on general criminal or intelligence information to their stakeholders, alerting them to emerging threats.

In accordance with the Fusion Center Guidelines issued jointly by the US Department of Justice and DHS, CFC develops an annual production plan outlining the types of intelligence products it intends to provide to stakeholders. Many of these intelligence products are developed in collaboration with CFC stakeholders; some examples are Boston Marathon and Fourth of July special event planning, quarterly summaries of suspicious-activity reports, statistical crime reports, and hate-crime reports. In addition, CFC distributes other intelligence products, including periodic bulletins, to stakeholders regarding police officer safety, situational awareness, high-profile-incident reports, and opioid-related arrests.

In addition to producing intelligence products, in 2007 CFC purchased and implemented a software product (CopLink) that collects information from dissimilar law enforcement agency record management systems and organizes them into a single database. CopLink also includes information from other entities, including the Sex Offender Registry Board and the Registry of Motor Vehicles. CopLink combines the information gathered into a single, searchable database, enabling users to analyze large volumes of information to identify trends and provide support for criminal investigations and other law enforcement activities. According to CFC management, as of February 21, 2018, law enforcement personnel from 414 agencies across the state had access to the information in the CopLink database. An additional 26 agencies outside Massachusetts also had CopLink access. CFC management also stated that they frequently provide training and technical assistance on CopLink to law enforcement stakeholders.

CFC operations are funded through the Department of State Police’s state appropriation. Additionally, during our audit period, the Department of State Police was awarded four separate grants, totaling $3.5 million, through EOPSS’s Office of Grants and Research to support CFC operations.

As of December 31, 2017, there were 37 employees assigned to CFC, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and has two locations: one in Maynard and one at the Department of State Police headquarters in Framingham.

Oversight of CFC Operations

Executive Order 476

Executive Order 476 requires the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Public Safety to conduct reviews of CFC policies and procedures, have discussions with CFC stakeholders, and regularly report their findings to the Governor:

Section 7: In order to guarantee that the Commonwealth Fusion Center functions with maximum effectiveness, methods of collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information must be constantly reviewed and updated. Accordingly, the Secretary of Public Safety shall regularly review the policies, procedures, guidelines, and organizational structure of, as well as the resources allocated to, the Commonwealth Fusion Center. The Secretary of Public Safety shall identify areas where efforts by the Commonwealth Fusion Center to gather, analyze, and share information can be strengthened.

Section 8: Whenever the Secretary of Public Safety deems appropriate, he shall confer with representatives from Federal, state, local, and private sector entities that contribute information to, or receive product or analysis from, the Commonwealth Fusion Center. In this way, agencies that are contributors to, and consumers of information from, the Commonwealth Fusion Center can provide input regarding the strategic planning for center operations and future enhancements, assist in identifying obstacles to the efficient exchange of information between stakeholders, and propose solutions to remove those obstacles.

Section 9: The Secretary of Public Safety shall regularly report his findings to the Governor.

We asked EOPSS to provide information about the type and scope of the reviews conducted and whether any reports had been issued to the Governor since CFC’s inception. We also requested clarification regarding EOPSS’s involvement in the strategic planning of CFC operations. We received a letter from the EOPSS Undersecretary of Homeland Security and Commonwealth’s Homeland Security Advisor providing insight into the level of oversight activities and communication that occurs among EOPSS, CFC, and CFC stakeholders. The letter (see Appendix B) indicates that these activities are intended to enhance information sharing and inform CFC operations. Although there does not appear to be a formal periodic reporting mechanism for EOPSS to update the Governor on CFC operations, it appears that there is frequent communication between EOPSS and CFC and that meetings attended by stakeholders occur regularly.

DHS Annual Fusion Center Assessments

In 2010, officials from fusion centers for states and major urban areas, as well as the federal government, together developed fusion center baseline capabilities, which include four critical operational capabilities2 (COCs) reflecting the operational priorities of fusion centers. Beginning in 2011, DHS, in coordination with its interagency partners, began conducting annual assessments to evaluate the success of fusion centers for states and major urban areas in achieving these baseline capabilities. As part of these assessments, fusion centers completed online self-assessments, which were then validated by DHS though a review of fusion center submissions and, when necessary, interviews with fusion center staff. CFC’s 2015 individual assessment by DHS concluded that CFC complied with all of the requirements, with a passing score of 96.7%. Further, the 2015 National Network of Fusion Centers assessment found that all fusion centers had reached the “mature stage,” meaning that each had established adequate policies and procedures needed to achieve baseline capabilities, which include the four COCs. This closed out the capability-based assessments in favor of performance-measure-based assessments. In 2016, DHS reported on performance measures for the National Network of Fusion Centers and did not report performance for fusion centers for states or major urban areas. The DHS 2017 fusion center assessment had not yet been published during our audit.

2.    These are the abilities to (1) receive, (2) analyze, (3) disseminate, and (4) gather information.

Date published: January 18, 2019
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