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Audit: Arizona's criminal database flaws may put public safety at risk

Auditors have discovered the state's database for criminal histories has a backlog of more than 58,000 records that need to be corrected or added to the repository.
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Closed handcuffs on the street pavement at night with police car lights

ARIZONA, USA — State auditors are casting a critical eye at the Arizona database used for conducting background checks of people seeking certain types of jobs or work licenses. 

The database also helps criminal justice officials decide whether defendants get plea bargains or sentencing leniency. 

A report released Friday by the Auditor General's Office said public safety may be put at risk by reporting gaps and a backlog in the central depository of criminal history records. 

The Arizona Department of Public Safety maintains the database, updating it with reports from law enforcement agencies and courts. The department said it accepts most of the auditors' findings and will implement multiple recommendations.

"As of July 9, 2021, the Department reported it had approximately 58,500 bulk submitted offense and disposition records, some of which date back more than 30 years, that needed to be researched, corrected, and/ or entered into the central repository," the auditor report stated.

DPS told the auditors its backlog is the result of needing to prioritize other responsibilities and a lack of sufficient staff. 

Not maintaining an updated database could mistakenly give convicted felons access to fingerprint clearance cards or inhibit law enforcement from finding suspects in unsolved cases, the auditors noted. 

"If criminal history information is missing from the central repository, it may not be available to law enforcement agencies to assist in conducting their investigations," auditors wrote in their report.

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