In 2012, Blue Line News Week reproduced an article describing the sad state of backlogs in Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). Sun Media reported: “A spokesman for the national police agency told QMI Agency there were 430,000 criminal records waiting to be filed into the Canadian Police Information Centre database, with more piling in every day. The backlog accounts for about 10% of the RCMP’s complete criminal record file of 4.3 million records.”
We wanted to know if there had been any shrinkage in the CPIC backlog for the subsequent years, so we filed an Access to Information Act (ATIP) request with the RCMP in July 2016. In January 2017, we received the RCMP’s response: “As of August 15, 2016, there was a backlog of 570,639 Fingerprint Services Number (FPS) files to be updated to the National Repository of Criminal Records.”
From 430,000 criminal records waiting to be filed (out of 4.3 million records), the backlog has swollen to 570,639 files to be updated (out of 4,457,532 individual files in the repository). This means that after four years of effort and expense by the RCMP to address the problem, the CPIC backlog has grown to 12.8% from 10% back in 2012.
The two-page ATIP response from the RCMP is available here.
So what else did the RCMP ATIP response tell us about the RCMP’s inability to get this CPIC backlog under control? For the three years, 2013, 2014 and 2015, the RCMP only updated 225,879 (58%) of the fingerprint files into CPIC out of the total of 388,122 new criminal convictions they were asked to make available on CPIC. They maintained this dismal backlog record by employing 60 clerks at more than $50,000 each, per year and paying out $6.5 million just for overtime between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2016.
Despite media criticism and what police officers told us, the RCMP have been unable to provide any statistics regarding the number of complaints received or problems CPIC users reported about these persistent CPIC backlogs. The RCMP ATIP response stated: “Complaints of this nature are responded to accordingly, but are not tracked or stored for future use.”
It is self-defeating not to keep statistics on the number of complaints and problems caused by the backlogs. If the RCMP doesn’t know how many investigations were impeded, how many criminals avoided prosecution or how many court cases were negatively affected by these CPIC backlogs, then how could the RCMP ever know how many staff are required or how much money to invest to fix the CPIC backlog problem once and for all?
The importance of having up-to-date fingerprint records is explained on the Toronto Police Service website. The fingerprints (and palm prints) of every person charged with an indictable offence by the Toronto Police Service are taken under the authority of the Identification of Criminals Act. These records form an extensive database which allows FIS to provide the following:
We also asked serving police officers to tell us what they thought of this CPIC backlog:
Senior Officer in a regional police force in Ontario: “These prints are important because they cannot only link an unknown criminal to different crimes, but can also show if they are moving/escalating into different types of crimes - perhaps with the confidence bolstered by not having been caught yet?”
Senior Officer in the O.P.P.: “This backlog is unacceptable and definitely impacts police and public safety. The biggest impacts are on proper sentencing based on prior criminal records; accused can be unduly reduced at bail hearings if prior convictions for failing to appear, violent crime and drug convictions are not on their record; and the lack of up to date information could also prevent search and arrest warrants from being issued.”
We would be delighted to hear comments from other front-line police officers about the impact this CPIC backlog has on their work. Please send any comments you have on other important issues affecting police and public safety.
These growing CPIC backlogs and the CBC’s coverage of internal reports detailing critical IT failures at the RCMP continue to jeopardize police work and the safety of officers and the public by letting criminals avoid being brought to justice in a timely manner. It’s not a shortage of money, it’s a matter of misplaced criminal justice priorities. For example, the RCMP spends more than $50 million a year keeping track of a couple of million law-abiding, federally licensed gun owners. This is an overly expensive firearms regime that has the current addresses of two million persons on CPIC, individuals whose available records show they have done nothing wrong and are much less likely to commit homicide than the average person. Nevertheless, the firearms regime fails to have a system to keep track of the current addresses of more than 300,000 convicted criminals that have been prohibited from owning firearms by the courts.
It’s not rocket science to figure out which group is more dangerous for front-line police officers and vital for their safety to have addresses for when responding to calls and conducting criminal investigations? Even if the government can’t get their collective heads around this real law enforcement priority, the least they could do was clear the CPIC backlog.
Finally, this updated information on the CPIC backlog also makes us wonder about processing backlogs in the RCMP National DNA Data Bank. We just filed this Access to Information Act request asking for an update.
TORONTO STAR - CRIMINAL-RECORD DATABASE SPOTTY AND OUT OF DATE, LAWYERS LAMENT
Lawyers say they regularly receive incomplete or inaccurate criminal records from the national police database which can lead to wrongful arrests, unfair sentences or critical information missing at bail hearings.
GLOBAL NEWS - BUDGET SLASHED FOR ‘CRITICAL’ RCMP DATABASE SUFFERING BACKLOG
Canadian Police Association president describes potential problems when the country’s only national law enforcement networking system is underfunded and out of date.
IS CPIC UP TO DATE? A CRITICAL BACKLOG AND ITS EFFECT ON EMPLOYERS
CPIC backlog a longstanding challenge. by Chuck Walker Posted 31 March 2015
CBC - CRIMINAL DATABASE BACKLOG WON’T END UNTIL 2018, RCMP SAYS
Prosecutors, judges, police say stale RCMP criminal-record database hinders ability to administer justice.
BACKGROUND CHECK BACKLOG PUTS THOUSANDS OF JOBS IN LIMBO
A “catastrophic” backlog in Toronto police background checks for students, health professionals and other workers could grow worse if the RCMP makes fingerprinting a mandatory part of the process.
MOUNTIES ADMIT RECORDS A MESS
The Mounties are tasked with updating and maintaining the Canadian Police Information Centre. But a spokesman for the national police agency says there is a backlog of a staggering 430,000 unfiled criminal records in the system with more piling in every day. The backlog accounts for about 10 per cent of the RCMP’s complete criminal record file of 4.3 million records.
LAW TIMES - COURTS GRAPPLE WITH OLD CPIC DATA
Fairgrieve’s ruling reveals that records of 11 convictions and sentencing decisions for John Horne going back to October 2007 hadn’t yet been entered on CPIC by the time Horne pleaded guilty to three more criminal charges last year.
Dennis Young retired to Airdrie, Alberta in 2007 after working for 13 years on Parliament Hill for Garry Breitkreuz, MP for Yorkton-Melville. Dennis is a member of the Calgary RCMP Veterans Association and a Honourary Life Member of both the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and the National Firearms Association. For his 20-year crusade for the rights of firearms owners, Dennis received the NFA’s David A. Tomlinson Memorial Award for 2014 and the CSSA’s John Holdstock Memorial Award for 2014.
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