Connecticut's planned new super crime computer – the centerpiece of criminal-justice reform in the state – is in danger of bogging down over FBI rules on who can see the expanded offender data that would be instantly available to anyone with access to the new system.
Thursday, in their first meeting since a state audit blasted the long-delayed project on several fronts, some of the heavy-hitters on an oversight board filled with top criminal-justice officials expressed frustration over months of failed attempts to have the state police agree on a set of data controls.
An office within the state police acts as the FBI's representative in Connecticut on federal rules governing criminal-justice information sharing systems. The FBI makes sensitive criminal data available to law-enforcement across the country, and there are limits on who has access to that information.
In Connecticut, some non-law enforcement agencies will eventually be in the network. The board voted Thursday to move ahead only with criminal justice agencies and wait to include the public defender's office and department of motor vehicles.
Other states with information-sharing networks have reached compliance agreements with the FBI.
"We can't go on this way,'' said Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane. At Kane's urging, the top members of the project team will make another concerted effort to work out the parameters with the state police.
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The new super computer – approved after a triple murder and home invasion in Cheshire in 2007 exposed deep chasms between criminal-justice agencies – would for the first time link police, courts, prosecutors, public defenders, corrections, probation and parole together in a record-sharing network.
The project has a price tag of at least $24 million, and would require the hiring of at least 19 new state employees with specialized technical knowledge. Last year, after State Attorney General George Jepson received a whistleblower's complaint, state auditors John Geragosian and Robert Ward found that communication breakdowns between the project team and the oversight board threatened to drive up costs by millions of dollars and put the the project at the risk of failure.
Since Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has repeatedly said he is fully committed to the project, the problems have been bewildering to some legislators and even members of the oversight board.
Michael P. Lawlor, Malloy's point man on criminal justice planning, serves as co-chair of the oversight board.
He said the panel and the project team were aware of the problems cited in the audit months before it came out in November and have made personnel changes, and installed controls and communciation channels that have solved most of the issues – except the FBI compliance.
The board over the last few months has brought in experts who helped to negotiate FBI compliance agreements in other states, to no avail.
Last month, Reuben F. Bradford, Malloy's appointment as the commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, which includes the state police, announced he was leaving after three years in the position.
Lawlor was asked if he thought the FBI issue would be resolved by Bradford's successor, Dora B. Schriro, the former commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction.
"She has a very strong background in organizational change, and in focusing on new technology and data collection,'' said Lawlor. "It's one of the reasons the governor selected her."
"I know she realizes (the crime computer) is a high priority, and I think it's going to be on the top of her to-do list when she arrives,'' Lawlor said.
Bradford will retire Feb.1.
©2014 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)