Funding to reimburse Ohio law enforcement brings up concerns about warrant databases

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

While Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine promotes gun reform laws, the state is offering law enforcement the chance to get reimbursed for funds spent apprehending individuals with warrants.

As part of the 2020-2021 biennium budget, the Prisoner Extradition Reimbursement Program was provided $500,000 for law enforcement agencies “that have limited funds to extradite suspects arrested out-of-state or in another jurisdiction on warrants” for high-level felonies like murder, arson, gross sexual imposition and arson.

This would also include warrants for misdemeanors such as domestic violence, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Office of Criminal Justice Services developed the program after it was found that some felony warrants aren’t entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a database that allows warrants to be shared nationwide in case an individual is picked up in another state.

A task force was formed to study this problem, despite the fact that Ohio law does not require law enforcement to enter the warrants into national databases, or state databases like the Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) for that matter.

In a December hearing regarding gun reform laws, specifically a law that would change the background check system for firearms in the state, Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson was asked about charges such as domestic violence were not being entered by agencies around the state.

Simpson, who is also director-at-large for the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association’s Board of Directors, said at the time, protocols were different in every county, so entering the data “could be done 88 different ways.”

DeWine said part of his push for updated gun laws in Ohio includes requiring all open warrants be entered into both state and national databases.

Source: The Ohio Governor’s Warrant Task Force

A task force brought together by the governor looked at the rates at which offenses were being entered in the state, and found that 17,552 of the total warrants entered into LEADS were for serious crimes like murder and sex crimes. While they were in the state database, 58% were not entered into the national NCIC database.

The grant funding being released can be used for the costs of transporting offenders from another state or part of Ohio, including mileage, personnel, and other travel expenses, according to the announcement of funding.

Senate Bill 221, the bill under which the governor’s proposed mandates are being considered, is currently in the Government Oversight and Reform Committee.