QUANTICO, Va. --
Nov. 5, 2018, marked the one year anniversary of the mass shooting in Texas by former Airman Devin Kelley who shot and killed 26 people and wounded 22 others at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.
A Department of Defense Inspector General investigation of the shooting, released Dec. 10, 2018, concluded the Air Force could have prevented Kelley from legally buying a weapon and committing the mass shooting, had its investigators followed proper protocol and established a criminal history record (indexing) for Kelley based on his criminal arrest and subsequent courts-martial conviction.
Criminal ‘indexing’ involves the submission of a record of arrest for qualifying offenses (one meeting criteria for criminal indexing) to Next Generation Identification (NGI) for inclusion in the Interstate Identification Index (III) database. An indexing submission establishes an initial or adds to a person’s criminal history and consists of fingerprints, biographical data, criminal charges, arrest information and subsequent legal action or disposition data related to the charges.
Shortly after the shooting, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations stood up an internal National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Indexing Task Force to review all investigative case files from 1998-2017. Its mission is to review all cases with a qualifying offense to ensure the subject of the investigation was indexed correctly, if required. It is also tasked to identify cases with criminal indexing errors and correct them.
OSI’s Indexing Task Force split the review process into two phases, with recent cases being the top priority.
During Phase 1, AFOSI personnel reviewed and indexed subjects with qualifying offenses in all investigative files from 2002-2017. Reviewers determined if probable cause existed to index subjects in the III database. If probable cause existed and there was no criminal history record, the reviewer indexed the subject with the correct charges and dispositions if fingerprints were available. When a criminal history record contained erroneous information, the reviewer submitted changes to the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) to ensure the record reflected the correct information.
“Since we stood up the NCIC Task Force, we’ve employed more than 300 of our professional staff and active duty, civilian, and reserve agents to rotate through the task force,” said OSI Commander Col. Kirk B. Stabler. “Our deadline from the Secretary of the Air Force was July 31, 2018. I’m proud to report we completed our (Phase 1) reviews on July 25, 2018.”
During Phase 1, the Indexing Task Force reviewed 47,129 files and identified 6,978 files with no OSI criminal history record; 5,607 were corrected by establishing a criminal history record for the subject through submitting fingerprints. The remaining 1,371 files are awaiting correction based on fingerprint availability from military entrance processing. This is an on-going process and the figures change daily.
Phase 2 is focused on cases from 1998-2001.
“Due to the low-tech nature of these earlier files, progress is slower than in Phase 1,” Col. Stabler said. “However, we’re making significant headway toward indexing compliance.”
As of January 11, 2019, the Indexing Task Force reviewed 8,651 files in Phase 2, of which 304 were discovered to have indexing discrepancies. Of those, 108 files were corrected and the remaining 196 are awaiting fingerprint availability. The Indexing Task Force is projected to complete Phase 2 by the end of September 2019.
A significant amount of logistics are involved in the overall undertaking.
During the first six-week rotation, Nov. 20, 2017 to Jan. 5, 2018, special agents and professional staff from Headquarters OSI and OSI units in the National Capital Region were tasked to support the Indexing Task Force. OSI senior leadership selected Special Agent David Mahala, a senior non-commissioned officer with 17+ years of experience, to lead the task force. SA Mahala has led the task force from its inception.
Beginning in January 2018, the Indexing Task Force utilized 30-35 temporary duty agents from OSI units around the world. Each six-week rotation included active duty, reserve and civilian agents. Phase 2 rotations were reduced to 15 temporary duty personnel based on the low-tech nature of the reviews.
“Because of the importance of fixing criminal indexing and doing all that we can to prevent another tragic incident, we had field agents, (OSI) Region staff agents, Detachment Superintendents, Detachment Commanders, Special Agents-in-Charge and Squadron Commanders support the Indexing Task Force and take what they’ve learned regarding proper indexing back to their home units,” said SA Mahala. “Plus, our case review and indexing progress was briefed weekly to senior OSI leadership and monthly to OSI Region Commanders and Directorate leaders.”
Each Indexing Task Force member is assigned investigative case files with a qualifying offense to review. Task Force members are trained on indexing criteria based upon DoD instructions and how to conduct III records checks to confirm whether or not a subject has an OSI criminal history record.
“The standardized review process helps the reviewing agent determine if a subject needs to be indexed, was properly indexed during the OSI investigation, or was indexed as a result of the Indexing Task Force review,” SA Mahala said. “Indexing Task Force members also identify subjects who were improperly indexed and submit requests to have those criminal history entries expunged from the III database.”
The Indexing Task Force submits a subject’s fingerprints electronically via secure means directly to NGI to create the criminal history record in the III database.
“Once the fingerprints are received by NGI, a comparison is made to fingerprints on file. If a match is found, the index is associated with the criminal history record on file; if no match is found, a new criminal history record is created based on the information submitted.” SA Mahala said. “All indexing in the III database on a particular subject is broken down by arresting agency and date of arrest.”
To ensure all future subjects of OSI investigations are properly indexed in criminal history databases, OSI instituted a comprehensive, command-wide three-tiered indexing review process.
“The three tier process instills a robust system of checks at multiple levels, so all subjects of OSI investigations have criminal history records correctly initiated in the III database and their DNA is submitted into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS),” said SA Robert Spencer, Air Force CJIS Computer Systems officer. “The first tier is the OSI Detachment-level which verifies a subject was indexed into III with all the proper offenses in accordance with DoD Instructions and with the proper dispositions in accordance with command actions.”
The detachment is responsible for fingerprinting and photographing the subject following the subject’s interview. After coordinating with the servicing Judge Advocate office, the detachment determines if probable cause exists to believe the subject committed an indexable offense and documents that determination. When probable cause exists, the detachment submits the subject’s fingerprints to the NGI to create a criminal history record in the III database.
Once command action is issued against the subject, the detachment submits the disposition to the CJIS to update the criminal history record. The detachment is also responsible to submit CODIS kits to the United States Army Criminal Investigations Laboratory for qualifying offenses. Only after extensive verification can detachment leadership close the file and prepare it for archiving. This includes a Tier 1 reviewer note in the OSI case management system indicating the review was complete and all required documentation verified. Once the detachment signals the file is ready for the archive, the second tier review requirement is triggered. Second tier reviews are accomplished by OSI Region level leadership.
“The Regions complete a review of the electronic case files,” SA Spencer said. “Regions can institute additional checks at this stage, however they’re only required to verify the subject was indexed into III for all qualifying offenses where there was probable cause, ensure the appropriate dispositions are entered into III, and verify a CODIS kit was submitted and received when appropriate.”
Once all administrative verification is completed at the OSI Region level and a Tier 2 reviewer note is documented in the OSI case management system, the detachment mails the case file to the Headquarters OSI File Room. Third tier validation is initiated upon receipt of the hard copy file.
A Special Agent assigned to Headquarters OSI completes the Tier 3 review, consisting of a review of the hard copy case file contents. The third tier was originally established to verify a subject was properly indexed in III, however, it quickly expanded to include additional verifications based on feedback from Indexing Task Force reviewers. The third tier now evaluates if subject photographs, fingerprints, disposition reports, command action documents and more are included in the hard copy case file. After the hard copy review, the agent reviews the OSI case management system and III directly to ensure the hard copy file has the most accurate information.
“All discrepancies are noted on a monthly report provided to (OSI) Region leadership for correction by their detachments,” SA Spencer said. “All corrections are forwarded to the file room for inclusion in the hard copy file.”
Since December 2017, the third tier review has processed more than 3,000 case files, identifying four subjects who required criminal history indexing, but were not indexed during the initial investigation. OSI correctly indexed one subject and the other three are awaiting fingerprint availability.
In November 2017, OSI obtained authority, on behalf of the Air Force, to enter qualifying individuals directly into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for firearms prohibitions. Since then, more than 9,700 prohibitions have been entered for the Air Force resulting in the prevention of 167 firearms purchases by prohibited persons.
To identify individuals who meet the qualifications for entry into the NICS indices, OSI strengthened their partnerships with Air Force Security Forces, the Air Force Judge Advocate, Drug Demand Reduction, the Air Force Medical Operations Agency and the Air Force Family Advocacy Program.
OSI’s collective efforts continue to make a positive difference with an on-going, expedient and consistent manner.