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State budget includes $3.5 million to update software that tracks fingerprints, criminal history

PIERRE, SD – Lawmakers in Pierre will soon be asked to send $3.5 million to the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to update the software that catalogs arrest and fingerprint records that date back to 1937.

The ask is among the one-time line items tucked into Gov. Kristi Noem’s 360-page proposed budget. The software upgrades to the DCI’s criminal record system would be covered by $2.5 million in state and $1.2 million in federal funds.

The system catalogs all arrest and conviction information collected by or shared with the state, including fingerprints.

If the Appropriations Committee approves the spending, Interim DCI Director Chad Mosteller said, the agency would seek bids for a faster, simpler system that will integrate and communicate more efficiently with databases used by other agencies like the Unified Judicial System (UJS).

Interim DCI Director Chad Mosteller (courtesy photo)
Interim DCI Director Chad Mosteller (Courtesy Photo)

The DCI database software is primarily used by law enforcement in the field. Its foundation is fingerprint records, which Mosteller said makes it more accurate than other records repositories that rely on names or dates of birth, such as the UJS searches anyone can run on themselves or others at any county courthouse in the state.

“If someone is arrested today and gives a false name, that will ping in that criminal history check,” Mosteller said. “It’s the most accurate check you can get, because you’re relying on fingerprints.”

The DCI information is also used in background checks for some job applicants, such as day care providers, nurses or school employees, and is provided to the FBI for use in background checks for firearms purchases.

“We’re protecting day cares, we’re protecting the public with these vulnerable populations,” Mosteller said.

The system still requires manual entry of certain records at this point, he said, so one goal is to automate and simplify the maintenance process.

The system may be out-of-date and unwieldy, but it’s nowhere near as outdated as the state’s 35-year-old accounting software. Noem’s budget calls for a $70 million overhaul of that system to modernize it and back up records in the commercial cloud.

If successful, the $3.5 million pitch for a new criminal records system would replace one last upgraded in 2018.

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