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State database missing some criminal information used in background checks

(Seattle, WA) Criminal information on thousands of cases is missing from a state database often used to perform background checks for employment and volunteer positions, the state Auditor’s Office said in a report released Monday.

The 26-page report said a check of records from 2012 showed a third of the dispositions for charges that were supposed to be entered into the Washington State Identification System (WASIS) is missing.

The information missing from the State Patrol-run database includes fingerprints and conviction records for mostly DUIs, third-degree thefts and fourth-degree assaults — all gross misdemeanors, said Thomas Shapley, spokesman for the Auditor’s Office. Eighty-nine percent of the information missing from WASIS stems from misdemeanor cases and the remaining 11 percent is for felony cases, including homicides and rapes, the report said.

The information is missing because either the person arrested was never fingerprinted or because a pin number assigned to every arrest with fingerprints was not included, the audit said.

“If information in the state’s criminal history records database is incomplete, law enforcement may come to the wrong conclusions during investigations, a judge may inappropriately order a lesser sentence, or an employer may wrongly offer or deny someone employment,” the audit said.

Deborah Collinsworth, identification and criminal-history-section manager for the State Patrol, said her agency has long known about a problem with gross misdemeanor records in WASIS. She attributed much of the problem to “a disconnect” in state law that allows police officers to arrest and release gross- misdemeanor suspects without taking fingerprints.

“We agree with the auditor’s concern that many local agencies and courts are failing to update criminal histories with dispositions,” Collinsworth said in an interview. “It’s something we’ve known even before the audit.”

The Auditor’s Office said they were tipped to problems in the database after a 2013 investigation into how background checks are handled by state agencies. Auditor’s staff talked with employees of jails, county clerks’ offices and courthouses to “better understand why WASIS was missing dispositions,” the report said.

The Auditor’s Office found that 81,000 case dispositions involving 54,462 people in 2012 had missing information.

According to the report:

Read Full Article Here: The Seattle Times