Federal funding will update law enforcement information sharing network

A woman speaks at a microphone
Mary Cerkvenik, the executive director of the Criminal Justice Network, speaks during an announcement of federal funding for the network, as Sen. Amy Klobuchar (left) and U.S. Rep. Angie Craig (center) look on. The network, which helps law enforcement agencies share records and information, is getting $1 million for an upgrade.
Peter Cox | MPR News

Federal funding will help to update a law enforcement information sharing network based in Dakota County.

The $963,000 will help build a new “state of the art” records management system, officials say.

The Criminal Justice Network has been up and running since the early 2000s. Dakota County and several cities use the network to share information quickly between law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and probation officers.

Police say the network helps them to get quick, accurate information, which isn’t always easy if different law enforcement groups have different information or filing processes.

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“When we started this, it was on paper and it was faxing back and forth a report. Today, for our nine agencies, they can do that online, they can say ‘I’m willing to share every approved report with my colleagues,’ and they can see instantaneously,” said Mary Cerkvenik, the executive director of the Criminal Justice Network. “If you’re on a different system, well, we have a problem, it is really difficult. We’re back to we may not be faxing, but we might be emailing. And again, we need to have stuff in real time, readily available, and not go through that.”

That sharing, they say, helps officers to respond quickly and with a much better background.

Rosemount Police Chief Mike Dahlstrom said his officers can arrive at a house they’ve never been to or get a call to respond to a person who they’ve never interacted with and they can get good baseline information to help assess the situation — whether the person has a history of mental health issues or with weapons complaints.

“The more information you have, the more time you have to react. So you might change how you respond,” he said. “If we know that there’s a crisis, a mental health call, for example, we’re going to get our partners on with Dakota County Social Services mobile response and we’re gonna get them on board. Before we get to that call, we might not show up to the front door, we might make a phone call first.”

“By not sharing information regionally like that, and across different counties and jurisdictions, it becomes a guessing game,” Dahlstrom said. “And it becomes making more of those split-second decisions. And we don't want to make those split-second decisions if we don’t have to.”

The funding was requested by U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith.

Craig said expanding this program could be critical to saving the lives of officers responding to calls.

“As we think about these critical calls that you’re making, the life of officers that often are put into jeopardy as you go on these calls. It’s obvious and apparent why having all of the information that you have as you get these calls is critically important,” she said.

The new records management system is expected to be in place by January of 2026.