Photographs and details about prisoners in Linn and Johnson counties soon will be online.
Johnson County officials hope to launch a project on Dec. 1 that will allow anyone with an Internet connection to find inmate booking photos, names, charges and bond information. Linn County also plans to put its inmate information online, but is at least a few months away.
Some Iowa counties, including Polk and Dallas in central Iowa, already provide inmate information on their websites.
Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said users will be able to search for a particular inmate or see a list of all inmates. Each name will have a link providing the charges, bond amount and booking photo of the inmate. The service will be free.
“The public is interested and entitled to know how their tax dollars are being spent,” Pulkrabek said. “We’re housing people in a county jail, a public facility, and it’s a public record that someone has been arrested. It’s furthering openness between taxpayers and government.”
In Linn County, Sheriff Brian Gardner said the ability for his agency to publish inmate information and photos is a byproduct of a software upgrade that is under way. Once deputies are on the new software, sheriff’s deputies and Cedar Rapids police will be able to share dispatch details, records and jail information seamlessly.
The transition should make several processes easier, Gardner said. For example, the process of getting a mug shot to an officer or deputy in the field currently takes several steps involving multiple people. A request is made to a dispatcher, who has to go into the system, pull the photo and e-mail it to the patrol officer.
“Police officers want to go into our system to create (photo) lineups to take out to witnesses or victims to help them identify a suspect,” Gardner said. “Right now, the process is a little more difficult to do and to access that information.”
Gardner said it could be “a number of months” before the software is fully functional, but then the sheriff’s office and Cedar Rapids police will be using the same system. The software upgrade is separate from the $18.2 million countywide law enforcement radio system that Cedar Rapids, Linn County and Marion are funding, which also will make it easier for the agencies to share information.
Law enforcement agencies in Johnson County have had that capability for the past two years, since the county joint communications center was opened. Pulkrabek said it has several advantages.
“If our detectives are working on a case and have a few names they’re looking at, it’s helpful to know if other agencies are looking at those same names with something that they’re working on,” Pulkrabek said. “For the officers on the street, if they stop a car knowing that same car was stopped by one of our other agencies a few nights ago or a few weeks ago, I think that’s helpful.”
When the new Linn County police radio system is up and running, officers in both counties will be able to communicate directly, Pulkrabek said. Officials have had informal discussions about sharing records and other data throughout the Corridor, and it remains a possibility in the future.
“That’s a little more difficult, because you have to get two separate software vendors to communicate with each other,” Pulkrabek said.