The Washington state database that employers and firearms dealers rely on to do criminal background checks is missing information on tens of thousands of people.
That’s according to a new report issued by the Washington State Auditor’s Office, which reviewed close to a quarter million cases from the year 2012 included in the Washington State Identification System, the state's criminal history records database.
According to report, the database was missing fully one-third of the final dispositions of those cases. The results of 28,000 gross misdemeanors — cases like DUIs — and 4,600 felony cases — like murder, robbery and rape — were not included in the database.
The Washington State Identification System is used by prosecutors and judges in making charging and sentencing decisions. It’s also used by employers and firearms dealers.
The report states that tens of thousands of people who were convicted of crimes that would have made them ineligible for certain jobs — working with children or vulnerable populations, for example — might have passed criminal background checks. It also means that people who were acquitted of those crimes might have been unfairly denied jobs or licenses.
According to the Auditor’s Office, the database is designed to create a unique record, called a PCN, when an individual is arrested and fingerprinted. State law does not require police to collect fingerprints in every case, so some records are incomplete.
Hundreds of courts and law enforcement authorities contribute to the database, and earlier reports have pointed to gaps in the system.
The auditor’s report recommends a number of reforms, including changes to state law to require fingerprinting of all people arrested for gross misdemeanors.