Criminal information on thousands of cases is missing from a state database often used to perform background checks for employment and volunteer positions, the state Auditor’s Office said in a report released Monday.

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Criminal information on thousands of cases is missing from a state database often used to perform background checks for employment and volunteer positions, the state Auditor’s Office said in a report released Monday.

The 26-page report said a check of records from 2012 showed a third of the dispositions for charges that were supposed to be entered into the Washington State Identification System (WASIS) is missing.

The information missing from the State Patrol-run database includes fingerprints and conviction records for mostly DUIs, third-degree thefts and fourth-degree assaults — all gross misdemeanors, said Thomas Shapley, spokesman for the Auditor’s Office. Eighty-nine percent of the information missing from WASIS stems from misdemeanor cases and the remaining 11 percent is for felony cases, including homicides and rapes, the report said.

The information is missing because either the person arrested was never fingerprinted or because a pin number assigned to every arrest with fingerprints was not included, the audit said.

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“If information in the state’s criminal history records database is incomplete, law enforcement may come to the wrong conclusions during investigations, a judge may inappropriately order a lesser sentence, or an employer may wrongly offer or deny someone employment,” the audit said.

Deborah Collinsworth, identification and criminal-history-section manager for the State Patrol, said her agency has long known about a problem with gross misdemeanor records in WASIS. She attributed much of the problem to “a disconnect” in state law that allows police officers to arrest and release gross- misdemeanor suspects without taking fingerprints.

“We agree with the auditor’s concern that many local agencies and courts are failing to update criminal histories with dispositions,” Collinsworth said in an interview. “It’s something we’ve known even before the audit.”

The Auditor’s Office said they were tipped to problems in the database after a 2013 investigation into how background checks are handled by state agencies. Auditor’s staff talked with employees of jails, county clerks’ offices and courthouses to “better understand why WASIS was missing dispositions,” the report said.

The Auditor’s Office found that 81,000 case dispositions involving 54,462 people in 2012 had missing information.

According to the report:

• 28,000 of those individuals were convicted of crimes that would have disqualified them from working with a Department of Social and Health Services client. Those crimes include harassment, child molestation and domestic violence.

• 4,611 had missing information stemming from felony cases that ranged from murder to robbery to aggravated assault and rape.

According to the audit, if fingerprints are not taken — which state law allows if offenders arrested for gross misdemeanors are not taken into custody — a unique number is not created for the arrest and the information is not sent to WASIS.

Law-enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys are responsible for sending information to the system when the case does not go to court; for the cases that do end up in court, the outcomes are entered into the Judicial Information System, which links up with WASIS.

However, dispositions entered into that court database are sent electronically to WASIS only if that unique number is included, the audit noted.

While the State Patrol attributes the lack of information to police departments failing to fingerprint suspects when they’re citing and releasing them, the Auditor’s Office said that, in some cases, some offenders weren’t fingerprinted because they were hospitalized before being booked into jail.

In those cases jail staff never went back and completed the fingerprinting, according to the audit.

In other instances, WASIS rejected fingerprints because the quality was poor.

Collinsworth said the State Patrol will follow the Auditor’s Office recommendation that they look into changing state law to require police departments to fingerprint misdemeanor suspects before releasing them. She said they will follow another recommendation that they remind local law-enforcement agencies about the importance of fingerprinting before releasing people.