The criminal records system California relies on to stop child abusers from working at schools and violent felons from buying guns is so poorly maintained that it routinely fails to alert officials to a person’s full criminal history, reports the Los Angeles Times. The computerized log exists to provide an instant snapshot of a criminal past, informing police, regulators, and potential employers of offenses such as murder, rape, and drug dealing in a person’s background. Nearly half of the arrest records in the database don’t say whether the person in question was convicted.
Information from millions of records from courts and law enforcement agencies has never been entered in the system. Aa small army of state employees must spend precious time — and millions of dollars each year — chasing paper records to fill in the gaps. The resulting delays often make it impossible for a police officer to learn immediately whether a driver he or she has pulled over is a convicted felon, or let a gun-shop owner know if it’s safe to hand over a weapon. “There are obviously serious public safety implications if that database is incomplete,” said Dennis Henigan of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Every record missing from the system could be someone who is too dangerous to buy a gun.” California has a shoddy system for collecting case results from 58 county courts and hundreds of local prosecutors and police agencies, said Travis LeBlanc, who oversees technology operations in the state Department of Justice. The final outcome —- guilty, not guilty, case dismissed — is missing for about 7.7 million of the 16.4 million arrest records entered into state computers over the last decade. More than 3 million of those are felony arrests.