Pittsburgh’s new police records system will help federal agencies better understand crime, say officials

Pittsburgh's new police records system is live after five years of work, providing officers and federal agencies a better view of crime data.
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Wrapping up a five-year effort, Pittsburgh debuted a new police records management system last month that allows for national data sharing.

The city’s top technology official said the new system — CentralSquare’s Records Management System — will help share data with other jurisdictions and help federal law enforcement agencies better understand crime.

Heidi Norman, the city’s chief information officer, told StateScoop that the Pittsburgh Police Department’s new records management system‚ which was launched last month — is compliant with the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System. The federal reporting system allows law enforcement agencies to share and view detailed data about certain offenses, such as demographic data about victims and offenders, which aids in investigations and understanding certain offenses.

Acting Pittsburgh CIO Heidi Norman (LinkedIn)

While every state has law enforcement agencies that share data with the national reporting system, Pennsylvania was one of only three states that had less than 50% of its law enforcement agencies reporting. Norman said gaining compliance was a key motivator in upgrading to the new police records system.

“What it’s all about is that compliance with NIBRS,” she said. “So that is a compliance mechanism that allows police jurisdictions to have data that is standardized and is able to flow into the federal government, and certainly the Justice Department, but also between jurisdictions.”

Despite a change in mayors mid-project, the effort to modernize the police records system has proceeded steadily. Mayor Ed Gainey in 2022 appointed Norman as CIO after she’d served as interim CIO since late 2020.

“There has been a lot of turnover and leadership, and yet through all of that, we still maintained that this was a really important upgrade and modernization,” she said. “I’m really happy to say that with the current administration, the current director of public safety, Lee Schmidt, his team and and the new chief of police, Larry Scirotto, and his executive team that came into place this year, there has been really great collaboration.”

Along with benefit of improved compliance, Norman said, the new system also helps agencies digitize paper records, automate tasks and enable interoperability with other jurisdictions, which she said will help the city’s police investigators do their jobs better.


Norman said the old system was antiquated, couldn’t keep up with the programming demands of some vendors and it was hosted on-premise. Norman said the city has spent a better part of the last year training its officers and staff how to use the modern system.

“We really needed to move to a cloud-based system so that we could get those continuous updates and security patches that are so much needed in today’s environment,” Norman said.

But the biggest benefit of the new system, she said, is its data-sharing capability — and not just with federal agencies. Previously, Norman said, the Pittsburgh Police Department was unable to share data easily even the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office.

“Being the largest of 130 municipalities in the county, you can imagine that the need to be able to share data effectively and efficiently really helps to support investigations among partner agencies, throughout the county and across the region,” Norman said. “That’s something that I think is going to help our investigators on the police force be able to do their jobs in a more efficient way, and hopefully provide better outcomes for everyone.”

Keely Quinlan

Written by Keely Quinlan

Keely Quinlan reports on privacy and digital government for StateScoop. She was an investigative news reporter with Clarksville Now in Tennessee, where she resides, and her coverage included local crimes, courts, public education and public health. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Stereogum and other outlets. She earned her bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in social and cultural analysis from New York University.

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