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Minnesota to upgrade protection order database

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota law enforcement officials expect a new state computer database to help them better protect domestic violence victims by providing up-to the-minute details about protection orders.

The state's current database is 14 years old and updates are made twice a day on weekdays only, which means a weekend can go by without officers having access to current information.

"It's an antiquated system," said Liz Richards, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. "Nobody even makes the replacement parts anymore, that's how old it is."

A $1 million federal grant will help Minnesota replace the old system in the next six months or so. The new system will allow court staff to immediately enter the information into the database to be accessed by police in the field.

The current technology was installed in 1998 and only allows the transmission of information on orders for protection from the courts to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension at noon and 5 p.m. each day. The bureau then manually inputs the information into a federal database so officers and deputies can access it from their squad cars. If a protection order is issued late on Friday, the information might not be available to officers and deputies until Monday.

Also, if some information is not entered correctly or is omitted, including a suspect's date of birth, the entire file is rejected and won't be transmitted to the federal database.

"There is a potential for lag time," said Sara Gonsalves of the Minnesota judicial branch's Court Services Division, who is helping to introduce the new system. "Any type of lag time is a concern."

The system also will make it easier for Minnesota's 1,000-plus state and federal criminal justice agencies to communicate with counterparts in other states, as well as with tribal police and tribal courts.

"This is about making communication better," said John Kostouros, director of the State Court Information Office. Kostouros told the Star Tribune about 8,000 orders for protection are issued by the courts each year.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press