Justice official’s hopeful system will eliminate unserved warrants across the state
"Outstanding warrants inhibit the criminal justice system’s ability to preserve public safety. A backlog in the service of warrants may leave an offender convicted of multiple offenses at large in the community."
- (Ret) Maj. Alecia Webb-Edgington
KY Office of Homeland Security
Kentucky’s public safety organizations and officials with the state’s Unified Criminal Justice Information System (UCJIS) are attacking the problem of outstanding and unserviceable warrants through the development of an automated system that will facilitate the sharing of information concerning active warrants among jurisdictions throughout the commonwealth. This pilot project, known as eWarrants, enabled law enforcement officers in Clark County to serve the first electronic warrant in the state in early November.
“Outstanding warrants inhibit the criminal justice system’s ability to preserve public safety,” said (Ret) Maj. Alecia Webb-Edgington, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security (KOHS). “A backlog in the service of warrants may leave an offender convicted of multiple offenses at large in the community. A misplaced or lost warrant may allow an individual charged with domestic violence to continue to pursue, and possibly injure, their victim.”
Captain Kevin Palmer of the Winchester Police Department, whose county is currently piloting the system and served the first electronic warrant this week, added, “At the very first glance you can tell that this is the future path of law enforcement paperwork. It will streamline the warrant process for all involved.”
Kentucky’s eWarrant project was developed in partnership with the Commonwealth Office of Technology (COT), Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, Administrative Office of the Courts and the KOHS. The project was financed with a $1 million grant made available by the U.S. Department of Justice, replaces manual protocols for processing warrant information with an electronic method for making warrant information available via the Law Enforcement Information Network of Kentucky (LINK), the system used by law enforcement to transmit and retrieve information on active warrants.
“Looking ahead, technology will play an increasingly important role in providing innovative tools for law enforcement,” commented Mark Rutledge, Commissioner of COT. “These tools will help keep the entire commonwealth safe without compromising the privacy and confidentiality of Kentucky citizens.”
A warrant may not be discharged if the appropriate officials are unaware of its existence, or served if the information that it contains is inaccurate, incomplete or illegible. Moreover, failure to serve active warrants in a timely manner may result in costly delays in court proceedings. Judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, court administrative personnel and police officers may waste time waiting on offenders who fail to appear and be forced to rearrange already crowded calendars to accommodate the rescheduling of cases.
According to Mary Pedersen, chief information officer for KOHS and Kentucky’s UCJIS project manager, “the sharing of warrant information in the commonwealth typically has been accomplished by means of the exchange of multi-copy documents prepared in various formats, from handwritten narratives to simple Microsoft Word or WordPerfect documents to small, unsophisticated online applications.”
This information often times was inaccurate, incomplete, illegible and not routinely entered into LINK. Kentucky’s UCJIS officials say that the standardization and automation of warrants under the eWarrant project will provide law enforcement officials with near real-time access to warrant information when they need it. Establishing a single point of entry for warrant-related data will eliminate duplication of effort and redundancy in data entry, while creating a uniform automated format for entering warrant information into LINK will improve the completeness, accuracy and legibility of that information.
The pilot eWarrant project, which was kicked off earlier this year in Clark County, is one stage of a long-term strategy that contemplates the expansion of eWarrants to include summonses, domestic violence and protection order information.
The Kentucky Office of Homeland Security has been charged by Gov. Fletcher to lead the commonwealth's coordination and collaboration efforts with public and private preparedness partners to ensure Kentucky is ready and prepared. For more information about homeland security in Kentucky, please visit www.homelandsecurity.ky.gov.