IN - County can't get to 10,000 mug shotsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
By Mike Dooley of The News@Sentinel
A computer glitch is making it impossible for the Allen County Sheriff's Department to retrieve mug shots of more than 10,000 people booked into the City-County Lockup between 1993 and 1996.
As a result, investigators ranging from local police to the U.S. Secret Service have been thwarted in identifying some criminal suspects or in making sure they are arresting the right person.
The problem surfaced in January 2000, when workers in the Allen County Police Department's Bureau of Identification tried to access photographs of inmates during the three-year period. Instead of the mug shots, they got a blank screen.
Sheriff Jim Herman said the problem arose after the California company that operated the old system and provided the equipment went out of business. Others familiar with the situation said the old system was overlooked when the county was checking its computers for Y2K compliance, and may have stopped operating after the calendar changed.
The system, called X Imaging, stopped working shortly after the county's maintenance agreement with the company expired.
Regardless of the reason, the inability to recover the older photos is posing major headaches for some police officers.
Several city detectives have told The News-Sentinel they have been unable to assemble photo arrays of people suspected of crimes because mug shots stored on the old system cannot be accessed. County officers who serve warrants, and narcotics agents also have been frustrated when they request pictures to make sure they have the right person when making an arrest or staging a raid.
Some narcotics officers tried to fix the system on their own. They were unsuccessful.
The firm that runs Allen County's computer system insists the photos still exist in the old system, but a representative of that firm has told the Sheriff's Department the photographs are "irretrievable."
Herman said he noticed a few problems with the old system several years ago. "Whenever we'd get a piece of replacement equipment, it would be used," the sheriff said. "That seemed unusual."
The company held proprietary rights to all the software and hardware, Herman said, which prohibited the county from switching equipment or running differ-ent programs on the system. The News-Sentinel was unable to locate anyone associated with that defunct company.
At one time the X Imaging system was considered state of the art in police identification techniques. It used digital technology to take, then store, photos of people arrested.
The county abandoned it for a newer system several years ago, but never switched the photos from the old system to the new system. Instead, the records bureau kept the old system and equipment on hand to retrieve photos taken 1993-96.
Herman said most of the mug shots in the former system are of drunken drivers or people charged with minor offenses who would be of little concern to police.
But some -- no one can say exactly how many -- are of repeat offenders or serious criminals who may have been released from prison and returned to the community to commit other crimes.
"Those are the people you'd want pictures of," one source familiar with the problem said. "And we can't get them."
The inability to recover the photos stretches beyond local authorities to a number of federal agencies.
Agents from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Secret Service have been stymied in their quest for some Allen County mug shots. The problem manifested itself most recently when local police sought a photo of a person suspected of stalking a local judge. They were unable to retrieve the photo.
While the county is apparently unable to solve the problem, Herman said it is taking steps to try to alleviate it.
Photos locked in the old system are being retaken and stored in the new system when offenders or suspects are booked for a new offense. And, in an emergency, local officials can turn to the Indiana Department of Correction for photos of incarcerated people.
-- Doris (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 19, 2001
-- spider (email@example.com), April 19, 2001.