Digitization of Canada’s Criminal Record Database is Taking Longer than Expected

442,325 criminal files are awaiting entrance into the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). In September of 2017, RCMP revealed that the backlog in the criminal record database hit an all-time high of over 570,000 files waiting to go into the database, in the fall of 2016.

The digitization process of the CPIC database was scheduled to wrap up in 2018 bit now, due to the major criminal records database backlog, completion estimates are closer to 2020.  Similarly, there is a pardons backlog.

What the Backlog Means for Canadians with Criminal Records

The delayed finish date, for bringing the nationwide criminal-record database up-to-date, is troubling for a number of reasons and affects all of Canada.

Employees and Volunteers

While the RCMP is slowing decreasing the number of individual files that aren’t yet in the database, the number of files that are awaiting makes it particularly difficult and nerve-wracking for businesses or organizations that rely on background checks for employees and volunteers.

Businesses in need of new employees and organizations who rely on volunteers, cannot simply continue to wait for the database to catch up on updates or make a hiring decision based on “good faith” and limited information.

Although employers and other administration can contact their local police in hopes of getting the appropriate information to make a safe decision about a new employee, it’s not an easy or ideal step in the hiring process.

The Court System and Police Officers

Not only does the major backlog affect businesses searching for new employees but missing files is a big problem for police officers and the court system. If a police officer pulls over or arrests someone with a criminal record (and that individual’s record is not up-to-date), the officer doesn’t have all the information needed to make a well-informed or perhaps even legal decision.

The same goes for Canadian courts, as they rely on the national database to make decisions about bailing of inmates or sentencing.

The backlog could also potentially affect Canadians who are crossing the U.S. border illegally. Typically, Canadian residents, who have a criminal record and want to travel to the United States, must apply for an entry waiver to the U.S. If an individual’s file isn’t in the database yet, he or she could enter the U.S. illegally, and no one would know that the law is broken.

What Happens Now?

The RCMP’s failure to stay-up-to-date and satisfactory work is a decade old problem. For decades, the system relied on paper-based files and according to RCMP spokesman Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer, development of a digitized system has been partly to blame with the criminal record database backlog.

While they wait for the digitization process to finish, the plan is to prioritize files that contain sex, weapons, or violent convictions as these are often more likely to be re-offenders. Courts and police officers can expedite requests on files, but otherwise, everyone will need to wait and see the progress in 2018.

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