The San Francisco Sheriff’s Office’s modernization efforts are building a template for progressive public safety and law enforcement agencies across the country
The City and County of San Francisco is creating a groundbreaking national model of 21st century policing, defined by the International Chiefs of Police as “best practices designed to help agencies promote effective crime reduction while building public trust and safeguarding officer well-being.” Rooted in the principle of safety with respect, the transformative effort is the only one of its kind in the country, and places emphasis on increased transparency, accountability, and open communication with the public.
For decades, law enforcement has leveraged state-of-the-art technology to increase safety, collect, analyze, and share critical data, keeping agencies moving forward in the quest for a more just, safe, and compassionate society.
The City and County of San Francisco is on the leading edge of the technological aspects of criminal justice reform. Their contemporary approach reaches across all branches of San Francisco County’s law enforcement agencies, including the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD) and office (SFSO).
The SFSO’s focus is to improve the quality of life for everyone in its jurisdiction, including visitors and travelers passing through. Modern technology is crucial in making good on that promise, and to that end the office is undergoing a sweeping digital transformation.
Shepherding this critical element in the continuing success of the 21st Century Policing program is Chief Information Officer Martin Raymond Okumu. In addition to establishing the business and strategic direction of the department's technology resources, he leads its Information Technology Support Services (ITSS) Unit.
Together with his 15-person team, Okumu oversees and develops the SFSO’s technology needs, from network engineering, applications, and data, to cyber security and infrastructure, with the goal of improving customer experience and illuminating a pathway to excellence for public safety around the country. Prior to his current role with the SFSO, he served as the Director of Enterprise IT Infrastructure and Interim CIO for the City of Baltimore.
The SFSO takes a “data first” approach to the 21st century policing process. “It’s been difficult for peace officers today to do their jobs, so we explore how we can better employ better technology, for example, we use a data driven approach paired with peace officer training scenarios to prevent excessive ‘use of force.’ We do this to safeguard the well-being and safety of our officers and the community,” Okumu said.
“We have employed evidence-based approach to case management when we investigate or make arrests, and we are in the process of integrating body-worn camera solutions,” he added. “We have invested in cloud-based data management solutions to manage BWC data, incident reporting, and data redaction processes. Our data management approach ensures that there is accountability within a well-orchestrated chain of custody process.” Additionally, Okumu is working with the data and architecture advisory committees to create a data center of excellence, a repository that unifies and shares data properly with accountability and visibility.
“Cybersecurity plays a critical role in driving our operation,” he stressed. “If we’re not able to book and triage people that come to our custody or run warrants or if you’re arrested but we’re not able to key in information and transmit that information to Interpol or the FBI, that poses a lot of challenges.”
Okumu approaches cybersecurity through partnership at the enterprise level, as well as through the city’s existing enterprise security plan. “We have a data management support function team that identifies essential areas of business where cybersecurity is needed. For example, we have a scoring-based system to classify data and its severity to the business should something happen to that data,” he said. “Moreover, I’m working with InfoTech, a research and advisory company to help us develop an information policy for our cybersecurity strategy that ties to our enterprise cybersecurity plan, and there’s a lot going on there.”
When it comes to building infrastructure for the department’s digital future, the office is in the process of moving to a software defined wide-area network over the next 12 to 16 months. “Of course, we already have an existing infrastructure and fiber overlay but to support SD-WAN we need to look at all aspect of our infrastructure,” he pointed out. “But now we’re looking to some of our partners to optimize and bring redundant optical fiber into some of our facilities.”
Other aspects include updating telecommunications. “Working with central IT, we just moved all sheriff radios from analog life to digital bands in what we call the CERS 1.1 System,” he revealed. “We now have an improved way to assign digital bands for the different units improving overall SFSO communications and operational efficiencies.”
As the infrastructure modernization continues, Okumu and his team are moving from on-premises types of service and application builds to cloud-native tools. “For example, we want our data storage infrastructure to be scalable and elastic so we’re working with vendors that are involved in cloud to give us that capability,” he said. Okumu also emphasized the need to secure cloud applications through identity access management and zero trust.
They’ve also updated their warrant systems. “We now run warrants digitally. We’re also building an integrated tablets program on Chrome operating system to deliver educational and learning programs. All these are going to be brought in through third party infrastructure that we’re accommodating to keep it separate,” he said.
These improvements are linked to the elimination of the existing mainframe system. “Part of that project encompasses several public safety agencies that tie data to the mainframe. We are building this infrastructure so that we have flexibility to integrate and share data with our partners. This move also removes the burden of managing critical applications on-premises so if we can move some of the applications to native clouds, these efforts will eventually pay dividends,” he said.
Okumu is working with DXC and Microsoft to help modernize one of the most important systems in the sheriff’s office, the jail management system. “We're moving that to Azure,” he said.
“We’re trying to move away from the native infrastructure to a more centralized data center. I’m not talking about a data center with switches. I’m talking about the data management and application functions. Our partners play a key role in modernizing that.”
One project helping the organization move forward into 21st Century Policing is the modernization of the incarcerated person tablet program designed to bring management software and curricula to incarcerated persons. “We are working with our partner Nucleos to build this program. The outcome of this project is to help with recidivism and re-entry of incarcerated persons back into the community,” he said. “We’re building a complete infrastructure and technology solution based on Chrome OS systems and tablets.”
Another key project is the Video Visitation Project -VVS. “During the pandemic, we shut down in-person visits and we had to find ways to keep visits available,” he said. Okumu is working with the video visitation systems partners to improve community and legal video visitation to the jails to keep the population safe. “As we transform the department to the 21st century policing, we have extensively automated the Video Visit System to help those in custody communicate with their loved ones and support the district attorney-client visits in addition to courts arraignments. We are now looking to integrate a robust self-service scheduling platform to completely automate the process,” he said.
The organization is partnering with a vendor specializing in IT and research advisory to create a high-level diagnostic strategic plan for the sheriff's office that will encompass cybersecurity management and organizational development processes. “There’s a lot of good stuff happening here. We’re on the right path.”
The eyes of every law enforcement agency in the nation are on San Francisco, and Okumu, who offers this advice for leaders following in his journey to 21st Century Policing: “Make sure executive buy-in is connected to your success. To do that, you need to bring your partners in early and focus on partners that focus on digital and scalable solutions. Have a good plan and road map, make sure you document it, ask for funding, watch your costs, and make sure you understand the Programs Portfolio Management (PPM) processes very well. Be flexible and agile, and you’ll be good to go.”
Led by elected Sheriff Paul Miyamoto, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office (SFSO) protects public safety.
More than 1,000 Sheriff’s employees across four divisions serve the people who live and work in and visit San Francisco.
SFSO divisions include Custody Operations, Field Operations, Administration & Programs, and Planning and Projects.
San Francisco Sherrif's Office
City Hall, Room 456
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102