Before issuing handgun permits in Minnesota, law enforcement agencies are required to do background checks that include a search of civil commitment data. This data, some of which is held by the Department of Human Services, holds clues about the mental stability of potential permit holders. Civilly committed individuals have been found to pose a danger to themselves, or others, due to mental illness, chemical dependency, or other psychopathic tendencies.
Checking civil commitment data was once a manual and labor-intensive process for DHS staff, but a recently completed IT project has made the checks faster, more efficient, and more accurate.
DHS State Operated Services Chief Operating Officer Fran Bly recently recognized the DHS employees who were instrumental in developing the IT-enhanced process.
“Our goal of serving and protecting citizens is made easier when we capitalize on IT, collaborate with our partners by leveraging existing technologies, and make our processes smoother and more efficient,” Bly said. “This project clearly shows how service-oriented architecture can lead to better government, which has been part of the vision for services that DHS shares with OET.”
Employees within the DHS State Operated Services Division collaborated with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and 400 local law enforcement agencies to complete the project.
Immediate responses to background check inquiries are now possible using an automated system linked to an existing BCA database. The electronic process now forwards handgun applicant information to DHS’s Shared Master Index (SMI) using a Web service that links and shares data. SMI searches, made more accurate and robust with an improved search tool, can now return summary messages telling law enforcement officials whether an individual has been civilly committed, and how to proceed.
Manual processing and costs at both the requesting law enforcement agency and at DHS have been significantly reduced since the tool was introduced; now only 8 percent of requests require manual research, freeing staff to work on other priorities.
In addition to the BCA, partner organizations that contributed to the project include the Minnesota Sheriffs Association, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department and the St. Louis Park Police Department.