Equally disturbing for purposes of background checks, often counties will enter data when charges are initially filed, but nobody goes back to remove the allegations when charges are disproven or dismissed. So some people are missing from the database while others are falsely labeled felons and really shouldn't be in there.
More than a third of criminal records are missing from the online Department of Public Safety database available to the public, a Fort Worth company found in a study.
Even government agencies, which have access to more detailed criminal records to screen teachers, doctors, volunteers and tradespeople, use a DPS system fraught with gaps, officials and experts said.
Problems exist because of human error and because of spotty reporting from law enforcement agencies, courts and district attorneys that provide information.
Even records of Death Row inmates are missing from the public database, according to the study by Imperative Information Group, a Fort Worth background investigation company. The company studied 562 felony and misdemeanor cases.
"We know that the data is not very reliable," said Mike Coffey, president of Imperative. "There’s a false sense of security that this criminal background check is going to be effective."
See prior, related Grits posts: