Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dallas County data-entry errors could lead to more wrongful arrests like Walter Rothgery's

Why should anyone care if the Dallas County Sheriff has flaws in its data entry for crime reporting or allows uncredentialed people to use the system? You might ask Walter Rothgery, the Gillespie County defendant who was falsely accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm when he had no prior felony conviction. (His arrest and the denial of an attorney to defend against those false charges just led to a new Supreme Court ruling.)

The Dallas News last week ("Audit reveals flaws in how how Dallas County Sheriff's Department uses state, federal databases," June 19) detailed similar data entry problems in Dallas County to the one that led to falsely accusing Mr. Rothgery and launching his federal civil rights case. Reported the News:

A state audit of the Dallas County Sheriff's Department's use of state and federal criminal justice databases revealed a lack of required training as well as some inaccurate records.

In January, the Texas Department of Public Safety audited the department's use of the FBI's National Crime Information Center computer database as well as the state version, the Texas Crime Information Center system.

The audit said terminal operators must receive required training, as must Sheriff Lupe Valdez, Executive Chief Deputy Jesse Flores, Chief Deputy Gary Lindsey and two assistant chiefs.

The audit also found that some records that have been certified by the Sheriff's Department as being complete and accurate were inaccurate. Other records needed to be double-checked by a second person for accuracy.

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe, etc., etc. ... If data entry errors hadn't caused Rothgery to be falsely accused in the first place, Gillespie County would never have suffered the consequences from his wrongful arrest and detention, not to mention the cost and embarrassment of a loss at the US Supreme Court.

Data entry sounds like perhaps the most boring part of law enforcement duties. But in the modern information age - when errors can travel in seconds across the continent to compound themselves in other jurisdictions - it's more important than ever that criminal justice agencies get that stuff right.


Anonymous said...

wrongful arrests in Dallas- Bexar - What the heck Texas??

Anonymous said...

Data entry mistakes not only happen in Dallas but also in DPS. Only a person who caresand has some computer knowledge should be inputting personal information into a person's criminal history. There are more errors made this way than any other reporting entity. The county may or may not be accurately sending the information to DPS, but someone in the DPS Data Entry Section either does not care and is only there for the salary and the benefits, should be sanctioned and fired and not allowed to work in that or any other State Department.

This makes me wonder just how many other errors are made by the Data Entry Section of TDPS!

Getting the incorrect information removed from public view is another nightmare and this too by law is supposed to be removed by DPS unless further notified by the County in which the incident happened. Deferred Adjudications are not convictions but once on the record they are not being removed by DPS and this is wrong and maybe those involved need to consider a law suit aginst the State of Texas DPS Data Entry Department!!

Anonymous said...

Ya think this may be aiding in the conviction of some of those Dallas county folks rescued by the Innocence Project?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I don't know if it contributed to any of the DNA exonerations, but I'd bet even money it contributed to some of the folks who get lost for months at at time in the jail.

Anonymous said...

Rothgery wasn't exactly a data entry problem.

He did plead guilty to a felony in California but the plea was part of a package that was supposed to expunge the conviction once he'd completed community supervision.

So Rothgery was more of a follow-up problem.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Well, Rothgery was victim of incorrect data in a database that wasn't updated or maintained properly. It's a similar issue to the extent agencies aren't focusing enough resources on ensuring information in the database is correct. Despite this post's title, there are many aspects to that problem besides data entry.

Anonymous said...

What do you expect Dallas County is a ghetto thug agency that is consistently rated the lowest and worst jail in the State. I am suprised there officers can even read and write.