Sunday, Nov 23, 2014

New computer system puts Pinellas court officials on same page

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— Pinellas County court and law enforcement officials unveiled a new electronic records system Monday that they say promises to make case management and research significantly easier.

The nearly $11 million system took five years to create, and millions of documents have been put into it. Dubbed “Odyssey,” officials say it replaces the 30-year-old Criminal Justice Information System, or CJIS, which they characterized as clunky and outdated.

“This is a system that we’re very proud of,” said Circuit Judge Tom McGrady, chief judge of the 6th Judicial Circuit, which covers Pinellas and Pasco counties. “It’s a tool for us to deal with a lot of documents and images.”

The system puts all courts-related entities on the same page by providing access to all court records through one interface, though a user’s level of access determines which files he or she can see.

The public, for example, would not be able to see documents with censored information or other restricted items, such as those pertaining to a sexual crime or name change.

Similarly, departments with competing interests, such as the Public Defender’s Office and the State Attorney’s Office, would not be able to see all opposition documents pertaining to a given case.

Representatives of Texas-based tech company Tyler Technologies, which created the system, said Monday that Odyssey is unique in that it integrates all court records, not only one aspect of the system such as civil or probate, as other Florida counties’ versions of the system do.

“We are all operating under the same computer system,” said Bernie McCabe, state attorney for Pinellas and Pasco. “In most places you will find that each officer wants his own toy, wants his own computer system.”

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gaultieri said the new system potentially could prevent circumstances such as one that occurred last year in which an inmate was killed by another inmate. Gaultieri said a glitch in a records database caused the two to be placed mistakenly in the same cell.

“That problem that we had last year with the information not flowing is corrected as of today with this system going live,” Gaultieri said.

The system has yet to launch fully as public access and remote access is limited. Court officials did not give an exact timeline for the system’s full rollout.

“Eventually it will make things better for the public, for the press,” McGrady said. “We’re not there, exactly where we would like to be, but we will be there so that you can see the records sitting in your office, viewing from your computer from any location.”

kbradshaw@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-7999

Twitter: @kbradshawTBO

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