Illinois State Police nix next database upgrade

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- As hundreds of police agencies across Illinois were looking toward a second weekend without the ability to conduct criminal history checks, the I-Team learned Tuesday that state police officials abruptly called off their next scheduled maintenance of the LEADS system.

The cancellation of this Saturday's takedown of LEADS computers comes less than a day after the I-Team first reported concerns about whether patrol work could be safely carried out without access to criminal information. For more than a full day last weekend police in Chicago, the suburbs and elsewhere in Illinois were unable to access LEADS. That outage stretched from last Saturday morning into Sunday-24 hours longer than state police had promised in a memo to local departments.

For officers making traffic stops and arrests the LEADS database is "an indispensable tool in the risk assessment decision-making process" according to Illinois State Police records. The computer link to Springfield provides information on current warrants, arrests and charges, previous convictions and suspects' prison sentences. LEADS also identifies sex offenders, child murderers, orders of protection and basic driver's license information. Without LEADS, officers said they were in the dark and unable to determine whether a potential suspect was dangerous or a fugitive.

A Cook County Sheriff's Dept. official said that this Saturday's scheduled database outage between 4am and 10pm would have "crippled our ability to get people out" on bond from the county jail. Last weekend nearly three dozen people who had posted bond had to be held longer than usual because background checks could not be completed.

The sheriff's chief policy officer Cara Smith said Tuesday that as were going to notify state police that Saturday's planned upgrade "was an unacceptable length of time," the ISP decided to dump this weekend's plan.

Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson was less riled up about the lack of LEADS. "They notified us that it was going to be down" Supt. Johnson said Tuesday during an unrelated event with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "We took some precautions to adjust to it."

Johnson said when it comes to technology, "you're going to have to maintain it-so that's just part of it."

However, some CPD officers told the I-Team they were concerned about flying blind when dealing with the subjects of street stops. While an intra-department database known as the "Chicago Hot Desk" continued to operate, it provided comparatively little crucial information.

It is not certain when -or if- this Saturday's database maintenance will be rescheduled, but another planned outage is still on the calendar for Sunday, August 6 between 6am and 11:30 am. Some local authorities say that time period would be easier to absorb than a high-crime Saturday night.

"We look forward to working with the state to develop redundant systems so that we can avoid the system being down in the future" said Fraternal Order of Police president Kevin Graham. The police union
official said FOP notices would go out to officers about any upcoming LEADS outages.

"When you have technology you do have to take it down from time to time and maintenance it" said the CPD's Johnson.

READ: Illinois State Police press release on technology updates
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