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More felons on PHX streets due to record issues

Posted at 6:06 PM, Apr 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-27 12:11:16-04

The number of felony cases submitted by Phoenix police to prosecutors plummeted in the days, weeks and months after the launch of a new multi-million dollar record management system.

The decrease means the city is arresting hundreds of fewer felony suspects a month, experts said.  

The new record management system, or RMS, was launched in mid-October.  The number of felony cases submitted to county prosecutors immediately dropped and then held steady for the next four months, according to data from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

On average, Phoenix police submitted about 500 fewer felony cases per month after the launch – a 36 percent drop.

Cases are submitted to prosecutors once officers have made an arrest or after detectives have finished investigating a case.

ABC15 previously obtained submittal data comparing the months after the launch to previous years. The station also requested data for all of 2015. However, the full 2015 data wasn’t released until last week.

The new figures appear to refute claims made earlier this month by Phoenix Police officials who attempted to attribute the sharp reduction to a multiple factors including a reduced crime rate, fewer officers and increased public scrutiny on police.

(See the full statement at the end of this story)

MORE DROPPED CHARGES

ABC15 has also uncovered another felony case in which paperwork appears to have not been properly routed, causing charges to be dropped.  Prosecutors weren’t forwarded the case and couldn’t file official charges before the required deadline after a suspect’s initial appearance.

The suspect, Salvador Bruno, was accused of punching his wife in the face while the two were driving in November.  Court records show Bruno’s wife fell out of the vehicle, hit her head and was brain dead.

Bruno then fired several shots as officers attempted to arrest him, police said.

Fortunately, Bruno was an undocumented immigrant so federal officials were able to hold him past the filing deadline, allowing Phoenix Police to re-file their paperwork.

Bruno is now being held on several felony charges, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping.

It’s the fourth time ABC15 has discovered suspects arrested in violent crimes either had charges dropped or were released without charges.

CITY LEADERS STAY (MOSTLY) SILENT

Last week, ABC15 sent an email to every city councilmember, Mayor Greg Stanton and the City Manager’s Office to request comment or an interview about issues with the RMS.

So far, only Assistant City Manager Milton Dohoney responded. Through a spokesperson, he sent the following statement:

“We continue to be updated regularly on the new RMS.  There are many successes to this system that demonstrate it works as intended.  Any glitches that have been brought to the attention of police leadership, such as those you referenced, have been addressed with either changes to internal processes or to the technology itself in an effort to prevent future concerns. Transitioning from a 25-year-old, out-of-date and inefficient system continues to be a 24/7 work in progress for all employees to ensure quality control.”

Earlier this month, Phoenix Police Sgt. Trent Crump sent this statement regarding the decrease in felony submittals.

 “The Phoenix Police Department has not conducted a study into the reduction of case submittals to prosecutors over the last couple of years, however a number of contributing factors should be considered. These factors include the luxury of an overall reduced crime rate in Phoenix, the most significant staffing reductions and cost savings efforts in the department’s history, a newly established and intense officer training schedule requiring literally thousands of hours of reduced patrol time and an intense scrutiny of policing, by the public, like never seen before. While technology upgrades may also play a role in this continued reduction, we are confident that the public understands this is a necessary part of information sharing and providing the highest level of service to our community.” 

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at dbiscobing@abc15.com .