Six times a day, college students and temps crisscross the Portland, Or., to pick up police reports from four precincts and several satellite offices. They haul 350 to 400 reports daily back to the police records division, where staff sort, time stamp, copy, file, and distribute them, reports The Oregonian. The archaic system has slowed detectives’ investigations because they don’t get formal copies of police reports until three to four days after a crime occurs. Precinct officers have trouble building cases against burglars or thieves because the records division does not have enough staff to enter stolen property into a police database, unless it has a serial number. Progress in creating an electronic system has been painstakingly slow, leaving Portland lagging behind many cities.
The police department has asked for eight annual extensions to hold onto the $525,000 in federal grant money first awarded in 1998 to improve its record system. Deadlines have come and gone. Major limitations could jeopardize Portland crime analysis capabilities and put the bureau in violation of state law. When the new electronic system finally rolls out, it won’t have enough data capacity to capture crime analysis codes now on police reports. That would prevent the police from entering characteristics ofy offenses and arrests into the police database, and reporting them to the state Uniform Crime Reporting program. Jeff Bock of the state crime reporting program said the lack of information from the state’s largest police agency will leave a gaping hole in his annual statewide crime reports. State agencies use the statistics to craft budgets, forecast jail bed needs, and seek federal grants.