450 restraining orders not logged into system, Baltimore police say

Birth dates are required to be entered in computers

November 20, 1999|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

At least 450 domestic violence restraining orders in Baltimore have not been logged into state and federal computer systems designed to control the purchase of firearms because city district court officials failed to enter enough information on the orders.

The Maryland State Police plan to audit Baltimore's handling of the restraining orders next month.

"This situation is very important because these people [with restraining orders against them] could buy guns," said Col. Margaret Patten, city police chief of research and development.

Baltimore police say nearly 12 percent of the 3,972 domestic restraining orders filed between January and September don't have birth dates for one or both people involved, and thus never made it into state or federal computers used for gun checks.

The Maryland Interagency Law Enforcement System requires the birth dates of the person filing and the person who is the subject of the order.

Figures for October and November have not been compiled.

State police say there is no indication that anyone with a restraining order illegally bought a weapon.

Under state and federal law, a person who is the subject of a restraining order is barred from buying or possessing a firearm.

State police enforce the law by conducting criminal background checks of would-be gun buyers, using information logged into MILES.

If a restraining order doesn't make it into MILES, police have no way of knowing a protective order has been filed against a person. MILES also feeds into federal databases.

The issue drew more scrutiny in September after a Laurel father was charged in the deaths of his two children. A clerk in the Howard County sheriff's office failed to enter a protective order against Richard Wayne Spicknall II, and he passed a background check. He is accused of using the 9 mm handgun he bought at a College Park pawnshop to kill his son, 2, and daughter, 3, Sept. 9.

The next month, Baltimore police sent a letter to district court officials asking that they pay close attention to including dates of birth. The letter warned that several hundred restraining orders were not being logged into the system because of the problem.

Keith E. Mathews, administrative judge for the Baltimore District Court, said Thursday that he knew of no problems. "Unfortunately, this was never brought to the attention of a judge."

Nevertheless, Mathews said he will issue a memo to the judges asking them to make sure birth dates appear on protective orders.

The state police have audited several jurisdictions around the state. The most significant backlog outside Baltimore is in Prince George's County, where 250 restraining orders have not been entered into the computer.

Baltimore police filed paperwork Monday with the Governor's Office of Crime Control & Prevention indicating that no backlog exists. "To me, a backlog means I was handed a bunch of paperwork and just let it sit there doing nothing," said Lt. Craig A. Mosier, deputy director of central records for the Baltimore City police.

Marty Burns, spokeswoman for the Governor's Office of Crime Control & Prevention, said her agency will discuss the matter with city police.

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