So Computer Crash Wipes Out Names, But Not Files

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The names of people who were arrested by Gila County Sheriff's deputies the past few years have been wiped out of the department's computers, but not out of the department's files.


Just as the county was getting ready to replace all of its Y2K noncomplaint computers last fall, the department's mainframe seized up. That crash wiped out all of the records from June of 1996 to the fall of 1999.


It's not nearly as bad as it sounds, said Chief Deputy Byron Mills. None of the day-to-day tasks have been interrupted, nor have any investigations or court cases.


"It's just been a little inconvenient," he said.


"Those computers were about three years old and were basically just personal computers," said department system administrator Val Zufelt. "Their life-expectancy isn't much more than that, and they just quit working."


Lost in the electronic wasteland are all the department's "names" records for the past three years.

"Those are the records that we can pull up by a person's name and show what bookings and citations are attached to them," Deputy Zufelt said.


But that doesn't mean people who've been arrested have been given a Get Out Of Jail Free card.


"We may not be able to pull up your arrest record in our computer, but we can still get that information," Mills said. "After the crash, we found out by coincidence that most of our officers had hardcopies of their reports, and all of our investigators were typing up their reports on personal computers at their desks. Those computers were not affected."


Mills said deputies also can access state computer files to look up criminal histories.


All of the department's employees will complete training on the new system within the next few weeks.


Deputy Adam Shepherd said the new computer uses software that's commonly used in law enforcement departments across the country.


"It handles all of our computer-aided dispatch, takes care of our jail and our records division," Shepherd said.


The new software, Mills said, is compatible with the new laptop computers deputies should be receiving within the next 30 days.

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