December 12, 2013
Disjointed systems tracking outstanding arrest warrants in West Virginia have led to frustration among some police agencies, who say they too often end up arresting the same person twice on the same warrant.
The issue was brought to light last month during a meeting of the Cabell County 911 Advisory Board, which includes representatives from various police and emergency agencies operating in the county.
The problem stems from various factors, from an older local computer database that doesn’t always accurately reflect if an arrest warrant has been executed, to a newer statewide automated system that doesn’t reflect older warrants or warrants issued from all levels of court.
Considering all that, it’s no surprise that some police say they don’t find the information they are getting reliable. Capt. Mike Albers of the Huntington Police Department told those at the meeting he was nearly at the point of telling his officers to stop making arrests based on warrants. A primary concern is that arresting the same individual twice on the same warrant could expose the city of Huntington to legal problems.
It’s clear that an answer is needed.
An automated database of warrants managed by the state Supreme Court of Appeals opened statewide in January. It houses magistrate court warrants, both misdemeanor and felony, from every West Virginia county dating back to January 2012. The problem with it is that it lacks older records and does not include warrants from the state’s circuit courts.
A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court indicates her office is willing to explore ways to merge magistrate court warrants from previous years, but there seems to be no answers at this point about how to incorporate warrants from circuit courts any time soon.
For the sake of efficient law enforcement and the fair administration of justice, it would behoove officials both at the county and state levels to work toward solutions soon. The current dual systems have demonstrated too many gaps and inaccuracies. Merging the two systems and ensuring up-to-date accuracy of the warrant records would be the logical top two goals.
— The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington