How USGIF Membership is opening new doors for one Fairfax County law enforcement officer
Lt. Joseph Flynn is assistant commander of the Fairfax County Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Division and deputy director of the Northern Virginia Regional Intelligence Center (NVRIC).
In 24 years with the Fairfax County Police Department Flynn has held many roles—patrol officer, air and SWAT paramedic, and more. He has also held leadership positions in case and branch management. Recently, Flynn was elected chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Subcommittee for Intelligence. Flynn has been a USGIF Individual Member since fall 2016.
Q: What led you to become a USGIF Individual Member?
When I transferred into the Criminal Intelligence Division, one of the big things I noticed was NVRIC analysts and staff were very isolated. The NVRIC itself has numerous analysts—cyber, critical infrastructure and key resources, threat assessment, gangs, narcotics. I wanted to see what else was out there in the intelligence world—other organizations or groups we could tap into to possibly expand our resources. Through the good graces of Google, USGIF came up.
I learned USGIF was very involved with the Defense Department and the federal side of geospatial technology, so I reached out to see if they would allow U.S. law enforcement into the organization and be interested in partnering with law enforcement agencies. My email received a prompt response from USGIF CEO Keith Masback, and he actually visited us with USGIF staff. They spoke with our analysts and our commander to explain what the Foundation does and to share more about some of the outlets they could provide to us. They also wanted to learn about the trends law enforcement is following with regard to GEOINT. I wanted my analysts to have opportunities for networking and outreach and to see other technologies out there that they may be unaware of.
Q: How do Fairfax County police use GEOINT to prevent crime and protect the community?
We have several different layers of crime analysts throughout the county. A lot of stuff we do is related to GPS search warrant information we’re allowed to receive from that type of data dump. We also use a lot of cellphone tower information when dealing with specific cases. For plotting information, we use a system called Tableau to highlight where events are happening.
There are two avenues we go down with geospatial information. The first is plotting an event and the historical marker of it. That information is used to help highlight, for example, whether the event occurred in a high accident traffic area. Then we’d push our efforts that way. Or to determine whether the event occurred in an area with high gang activity. And we’d push our activity that way. We break it down into the specifics of the crime and then determine what resources we’re going to direct to that area to help reduce crime and have more of a presence.
The second part of our geospatial aspect is plotting evidence data to reveal a timetable of how an individual person is moving and discover correlation between one or more targets to determine if there’s a relationship. This is where companies are starting to come to us to see if they can help or if we can help them with a product that performs the geospatial evidentiary role.
Q: What advice do you have for students and young professionals hoping to join or who recently joined the law enforcement community?
Sit back and determine what type of law enforcement you want to do. I enjoyed starting my career as a beat cop, going out, pounding the street, driving, and meeting people and investigating certain levels of crime. There are those who want to go straight into working the crime scene processing or the forensics. You also have people who don’t want to get their hands dirty but are very analytical and think deeply—the people that can correlate and see the bigger picture and bring it into perspective. Decide whether that’s something you want to go into. Also, technology is still big in all aspects; you have to get very comfortable with the current technology and always think forward. If you’re not doing that, you’re going to handcuff yourself from advancing your career and your abilities.
Q: How have you benefited from USGIF Membership?
Professionally, it’s opening up eyes and doors. There are opportunities for law enforcement intelligence folks to meet and network with people who are experts in the field and are willing to assist us. I’m bringing geospatial intelligence specialists into NVRIC to talk with our analysts and to see how the workflows go and how they set their goals. Then, we can ask those outside groups for advice on how we can improve. USGIF is opening doors for us to people and technologies that we may not have thought of in the past.
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