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News Report

Computer Meltdown Destroys 1,000 Police Files

SASKATOON  —  The first major computer meltdown in the history of the Saskatoon Police Service has resulted in the loss of roughly 1,000 files.

The crash happened March 4 and wiped out files from the previous 12 days, starting Feb. 22. Most of those are reports officers enter into the police database after investigating 911 calls.

On Friday, the police service realized that it won't be able to recover the lost data with its backup system, forcing a long, tedious process of re-entering the information.

Officers will now type their notes into the database one more time. Casual civilian workers will work extra hours.

The database won't be up to date for at least five weeks, said acting Insp. Al Stickney, who heads the police records management division.

"It's going to take work," he said. "It will create a backlog for a bit. I don't think the public will be inconvenienced."

But Stickney also asked the public to be patient when they look for police followup of incidents that occurred during the lost time period.

"It may take time before we can fully respond to those files."

Serious matters such as break-ins will remain a high priority for follow-up, Stickney said.

Last year, the police service received approval to hire more civilian staff to clear a backlog of warrants needing to be entered into the database. With the computer crash, this backlog will be "more onerous" since it involves some multi-page reports, Stickney said.

The impact on ongoing investigations has been "minimal" because officers keep their notebooks and have access to some hard-copy reports, Stickney said. All the files can be re-entered.

The police service has been computerized since the mid-1980s, Stickney said. The cause of the crash is still unknown.

"This is something (the police service) has avoided for many years. … I would suggest our equipment is state of the art here and it's constantly being upgraded."

On an average day, officers might enter about 80 reports into the database in response to complaints that the public phones in, Stickney said. They also enter reports based on visits by the public to the station.

Police don't expect re-entering the files to be costly, although it may involve some overtime for officers and more hours for civilian staff.

The police force has computer backups, but lacks a fully redundant network that likely would have prevented the backlog. The police service has budgeted $790,000 to build such a backup between 2006-13.

"We need to do it," said Mayor Don Atchison, the police commission chair. "At least (police) are addressing the issue and they're going to get it back up to speed very quickly."