CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I-Team has found thousands of people wanted by the law have been able to stay on the streets with you, in part, because of a breakdown in the system. And that same breakdown also meant officers may not have known when they were dealing with some violent criminals.
Now we’ve learned of a scramble to fix it.
The I-Team discovered about 3,300 arrest warrants did not get into a Cleveland police computer system. Neither did hundreds of alerts from judges. Those documents warn police about violent criminals with mental health issues.
The warrants were all for people who didn’t show up for court in traffic cases. Since they didn’t get into the police computer system, officers on the street would have had no way to know those drivers were wanted.
Multiple sources confirm the warrants and the alerts made it to Cleveland police headquarters. But somehow, no one entered the information into a police computer. We’ve been told the problem built up over a couple of years.
Taking a closer look at the mental health forms, judges can alert police to criminals with mental health issues convicted of everything from murder to sex crimes to domestic violence. In 2016, 450 of the forms were sent to police agencies in Cuyahoga County. Last year, the number approached 600.
Cleveland Police Union President Jeff Follmer said, "It's really important because it affects our job and who we're dealing with.” He added, “You really like to know who you're dealing with, and these forms obviously would help us to figure it out if there's something going on with this person. It could save our life going forward.”
Cuyahoga County judges we contacted had no idea about this until the I-Team called. A spokesman for Cleveland Municipal Court says the city court became aware this week.
Earlier this week, the I-Team started asking Cleveland police: How did this happen? We’ve reached out to the chief’s office multiple times, and we’re still waiting for answers.
Meantime, the police department has been working 24-7 to catch up on the backlog. In fact, as a result of working around the clock on this, police expect to be caught up very soon.
As for the arrest warrants, they involved lesser charges. So it is very unlikely police would go out specifically looking for those wanted drivers. However, if those people had been stopped or questioned for something else, they could have been hauled in on the warrants.