State to try again to join databases
The owner of a Baton Rouge technology firm that won a state contract in 2004 to link the databases of state and local law enforcement agencies, then lost it two months later through no fault of its own, says he has absolutely no interest in bidding again for the contract.
“I’m through with the political process in Louisiana,” Thinkstream President Barry Bellue said. “This is really a political issue, not a technology issue.”
Bellue’s comments came in a Aug. 21 interview, two weeks after the Integrated Criminal Justice Information System policy board met Aug. 7 for the first time since the ICJIS project imploded eight years ago.
The 1999 legislation that created the ICJIS board said the project was to include an impaired driver tracking system.
A resolution approved during the 2012 legislative session that ended in June urged the board to “meet and coordinate the integration of the various criminal justice automated information systems.”
There are 13 such systems operating in the state, Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of Louisiana State Police and member of the ICJIS board, said at the Aug. 7 meeting.
Thinkstream was one of 13 bidders that sought a $1.5 million contract with the board to create a network linking the databases of some Louisiana criminal justice agencies. The network would have let the agencies access each other’s databases for information such as criminal histories, warrants, fingerprints and photos and make it available to computers in squad cars.
After the initial connection, the board planned to award a $10 million contract to hook up hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the state.
Thinkstream already had set up such a network linking the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, district attorney, clerk of court and the police departments for Baton Rouge, Addis, Baker, Brusly and Zachary. Other agencies were added later. The network provides instant access to complete criminal profiles.
The ICJIS board voted in March 2004 to give the initial contract to Thinkstream, but a competitor, Templar Inc. of Alexandria, Va., appealed, saying a technical advisory committee had ranked Templar higher. Then-Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc overturned the decision in May 2004, ruling the board violated its own rules in awarding the contract to Thinkstream.
Bellue said in his interview that it is pointless for the board to continue meeting until Louisiana develops the political will to properly track charges from the suspects’ arrests to their “ultimate disposition.”
“This is all words. It’s blowing smoke. Go do what you’re supposed to do,” he said.“It’s not about data. We have data. Are we going to be responsible in how we manage it?”
Bellue said the key is assigning an arrest tracking number from the outset that is tied to fingerprints, and then tracking that arrest to its final disposition. Bellue contends Louisiana has been lax in that regard.
“What’s a new database going to do to solve that?” he asked rhetorically. “If I can find the arrest but I can’t find the outcome, what good is talking to each other.”
Bellue stressed that prosecutors and judges need to be held accountable for how they are handling charges. He said prosecutors should be accountable for all of the charges a defendant is booked with, not just those a prosecutor decides to pursue.
Louisiana District Attorneys Association Executive Director Pete Adams declined to discuss Bellue.
Edmonson said at the ICJIS board meeting that State Police relies heavily on the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or AFIS.
The system is integrated with mugshot and criminal history information. AFIS booking facilities are in all 64 parish sheriffs’ offices and major police departments statewide, he said.
The ICJIS board has been asked to report its progress to the Legislature during the 2013 regular session.
At its May 2004 meeting, the board agreed to surrender the $1.5 million grant and scrap the ICJIS project because the grant was due to expire in early 2005 — which did not give the board enough time to re-evaluate the 13 proposals, pick a winner and spend the money.
A Templar spokeswoman said in the fall of 2004 that the company had “moved on.”
In addition to Louisiana, Bellue said Thinksteam has law enforcement customers in a number of other states, including California, Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Georgia.