Ohio biometric criminal background check system flawed with errors: report

April 27, 2015 - 

Ohio state officials are looking to replace its biometric criminal background-check system, developed by 3M Cogent, following a slew of ongoing issues, according to a report by The Columbus Dispatch and WBNS-TV.

Operated by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) in the office of Attorney General Mike DeWine, the report claims that the system has been plagued with various problems within the 15 years it has been in operation including falsely indicating that thousands of criminals have clean records.

Following a review of thousands of pages of records, supervisors have labelled the system as being “cobbled together” and “running on borrowed time.”

The system often takes months to connect criminal-convictions to fingerprints records, with some records of convictions not arriving at all.

Perhaps even more alarming is that the system has compiled thousands of incomplete or inaccurate background checks as a result of missing electronic fingerprint and conviction records.

The criminal background-check system is used daily by thousands of police officers and employers to vet school teachers, foster parents, medical professionals, firefighters, day-care and nursing home workers.

There have been hundreds of cases in the past three years where system inaccuracies have led BCI to incorrectly informing employers that an aspiring or existing employee had no criminal record.

In addition to errors with the computer system, some court clerks failed to submit criminal conviction records to BCI for months since 2013.

WBNS-TV’s investigations into municipal and county court records in eight counties found 6.6% of convictions (more than 10,000 overall) from recent years missing from the state system.

In an email sent in December, a BCI supervisor said that system errors “could mean a person who committed a felony offense will not have this on their record.”

On April 6, BCI officials demanded a $6.2 million “credit” requiring 3M Cogent to provide three full-time system engineers, a system upgrade, and a completed rebuild by June 30.

The attorney general’s office wrote a letter to 3M Cogent in which it stated that the firm violated its contract, emphasizing that the system was unavailable to BCI employees for a combined 10,147 hours in 2014, and is performing “poorly this year”.

“Although we respectfully take issue with a number of the assertions made by the attorney general’s office, we are very much looking forward to resolving our differences and continuing to provide … the citizens of Ohio a state-of-the-art biometric identification system,” a 3M Cogent spokeswoman said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office declined to offer an estimated cost or time frame for replacing the current system.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.