CARSON CITY — A study has found more than 800,000 criminal cases, some going back 20 years, that were not forwarded by Nevada law enforcement agencies and the courts for entry into the state criminal information repository.
Julie Butler, who oversees the program, said Friday the backlog is a critical public safety issue.
The lack of reported records can mean that employer background checks are incomplete.
The state Parole and Probation Division might not have complete information on a criminal case for sentencing purposes.
The Department of Corrections might not have the data needed to properly house an inmate based on risk.
Licensing and regulatory agencies won’t necessarily have complete information on applicants.
And firearms sales could be made to felons who are prohibited from owning guns.
“It’s huge,” Butler said.
The agency is confident that it is up to date on mental health adjudications, which would prohibit such individuals from purchasing guns, she said.
And law enforcement officers making a traffic stop would have past arrest information, just the potential of no details of any convictions, Butler said.
“What we’re lacking is the ultimate adjudication,” she said.
The study by MTG Management Consultants in 2011 found that criminal justice agencies were either not submitting dispositions or were inconsistently reporting them to the state General Services Division of the Department of Public Safety.
In a report to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee seeking additional workers to erase the backlog, it was also noted that only one-third of the state’s 78 courts were consistently reporting the information to the agency.
Reporting from the courts and law enforcement agencies has since improved due to education and outreach, the agency said.
The Interim Finance Committee on Thursday approved a request to hire 10 employees and 10 contract employees to work on the backlog.
Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, chairwoman of the Interim Finance Committee, said the report was troubling although questions have been raised since the meeting about whether the number of missing records is accurate.
“But even if the numbers are a quarter of that, it is still troubling,” she said. “That information is vital to keeping people safe.”
Butler said the massive amount of records, most submitted electronically, were only recently forwarded to the agency, which is why the request for more employees came to lawmakers only now.
“With the current staff it would take 23 years to complete the data entry of the current records backfill,” the agency said in its report. “This does not include the projected increase of 60 percent for current dispositions that will be received from the courts that are not reporting to us regularly as a result of our outreach.”
Butler said it will take an estimated four years to eliminate the backlog with the 20 positions.
The agency is also seeking a federal grant to hire 10 more employees. If the request is approved later this year, the backlog could be eliminated by 2017, she said.
A combination of factors likely contributed to the backlog, from a lack of resources by some agencies, to turnover of employees leading to a lack of knowledge of the requirement, Butler said.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.