DPS criminal database is incomplete

November 25, 2008 5:06:54 AM PST
More than a third of records on criminal convictions and deferred adjudications were missing from the state's central criminal database, an analysis by a background screening company found. Fort Worth-based Imperative Information Group studied 562 cases known to have concluded with a conviction or deferred adjudication agreement for offenses that ranged from theft by check to capital murder. Its study, conducted in October, found the Department of Public Safety database was missing 36 percent of the criminal records in the sample.

State licensing agencies, employers, youth sports leagues, churches and others rely on the database to screen prospective employees, customers and volunteers. But they may not be getting complete information because human error and lax reporting from law enforcement agencies, courts and district attorneys have kept some records from being entered into the DPS database, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on Tuesday.

"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."

DPS acknowledged the problem isn't new and blamed inconsistent reporting of convictions and other case resolutions. The public database lists reported convictions only after DPS has received complete records from the local agencies.

Some counties report as little as 17 percent of convictions to DPS, said agency spokeswoman Tela Mange.

"It's been going on for a number of years," she said. "There's nothing we can do to force them to fix that problem."

The missing criminal cases in the study involved at least three Texas death row inmates:

-- Stephen Dale Barbee, a man convicted of killing his former girlfriend and her seven-year-old son in Tarrant County;

-- Edward Lee Busby, Jr., who was convicted of robbing and kidnapping a retired Texas Christian University professor; and

-- Noah Espada, who waited for his former employer to return home in Bexar County and shot him.

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