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Breaking down silos in agency communication

July 26, 2022  By Isabelle Sauvé

Nowadays bad actors rarely operate within a single jurisdiction. There is no repudiating that “border less” and international crime are on an upward trajectory. Advances in technology have helped to ease the propagation of multi-and trans-national criminal operations. On one hand, this trend has created momentous challenges for law enforcement, while on the other hand it has served to safeguard and offer increasing anonymity and immunity for criminal activity.

It has undoubtedly become more difficult for law enforcement to operate in an efficaciously and timely manner. The lack of communication, information sharing and collaboration within the law enforcement community needed to combat this problem has become glaringly obvious. This unquestionable disparity can no longer be ignored. Justice professionals cannot afford to operate in silos.

Law enforcement organizations have long tended to espouse silos. Silos are defined as “a hierarchical organization which seeks to maximize vertical coordination at the expense of horizontal coordination. It is inward-looking and self-contained with little regard for outcomes other than those which affect its own narrowly conceived goals.”

There are several reasons silos exist, such as a lack of training, need for recognition, unhealthy relationships, a loss of sight regarding larger common goals, misguided incentives, competition for resources, “turf war” mentality and fear of reprisal, for example. The most prominent and serious issue with silos is the lack of communication and information sharing.

A lack of interaction often leads to redundancy, inefficiency, wasted resources and failure. Communication and collaboration in the realm of law enforcement can take place on multiple levels. Communication within a single agency frequently proves difficult nevertheless when it is needed across multiple organizations. Lack of processes or memorandums of understanding as well as and the legalities surrounding information sharing are common hindrances.

The most prominent and serious issue with silos is the lack of communication and information sharing.

Lack of information sharing can not only impede and delay projects and investigations but also create a considerable safety concern for law enforcement employees and members of the public. When the intelligence flow is poor or non-existent, investigations and projects may unnecessarily be forced to terminate. The consequence is that criminals are protected over the true victims of crime. History is filled with immeasurable examples of tragic consequences of meager information sharing. The Dorner report for instance, states: “as police hunted Christopher Dorner, poor communication, competing interests and a chaotic, underdisciplined response highlighted serious problems.” While shortcomings may be more blatant in large scale events, they are also pervasive in smaller scale investigations such as child exploitation offences, fraud, intellectual property crime and cybercrime, for example. Regardless of the scale of an incident, the impact on the victims is tragic and detrimental.

Regardless of shoulder flash or professional affiliation, the collective concentration should be on the “bigger picture”. To achieve this aim, all law enforcement personnel must collaborate in equal partnerships with colleagues and external organizations to fight criminality. Joint efforts grant law enforcement the opportunity to draw and benefit from a wealth of expertise and a multitude of perspectives. It is also cost efficient and fiscally responsible, as it introduces the pooling of resources. Organizations become more effective when communication channels are open. Trust and transparency can also be facilitated.

While the goal is not to completely eliminate silos—as there is benefit in specialized units and expertise—but rather to expand horizontal coordination, communication and collaboration. The benefits of intelligence-led policing are well known, but this approach is only as good as the information acquired, shared and utilized by those in the need to know. Law and policies must also support information sharing and interoperability. It is key that leadership speak out and advocate the needed amendments in policy and applicable laws to rebalance the scales and better protect victims.

Isabelle Sauvé has a MA in psychology and is a PhD candidate. She is also an ultramarathon/endurance athlete and the Racing the Planet/4 Deserts 2018 Series winner as well as a Guinness World record holder. She can be contacted at:

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