New software leads to “wrong arrest” of innocent woman
It happened in Bossier City; and she’s afraid another person could wind up in jail just like her
BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) — In video taken from a squad car dash camera, a Bossier City police officer can be heard telling Carolyn Robinson that she is about to be arrested and taken to jail.
“Well, we ran everybody, and we confirmed that there is an active warrant right now,” the officer says.
The arrest took place July 11 in a convenience store parking lot off Barksdale Boulevard near Rome Street.
Officers on the scene believed Robinson, a 36-year-old Shreveport woman, was wanted on a felony warrant for robbery.
The only problem is Robinson was innocent. A fact that Bossier City police officials admit.
“We were switching over to a new software system, and there was basically an issue with the software program when it switched over,” Bossier City police spokeswoman Traci Landry said.
“I was terrified,” Robinson said as she recalled her arrest. “I thought I was being set up.”
For her, the terrifying mistake began as a car accident.
“I was traveling on Barksdale toward I-20 to get on the highway, and a lady hit me from the back.”
At first, Robinson thought it was just a fender bender. She called police to make a report.
But after sitting in her car for close to 45 minutes, Robinson says she got worried when officers stopped asking about the wreck and started questioning her about a robbery, saying her name popped up on a squad car computer showing a felony warrant dating back to 2016.
“I’m thinking I’m just going to do the right thing. Go call the police, whatever, get the insurance swiped whatever,” Robinson recalled.
“Come to find out, they’re taking me to jail. And I’m like ‘What did I do? I didn’t do anything’.”
Video of the arrest shows Robinson calm and polite but confused as officers put her in a police van to take her to the City Jail.
In body camera video, two Bossier police officers seem almost as confused as Robinson, wondering why the 2016 warrant didn’t pop up in their system during an encounter with Robinson in 2017.
According to Landry and the arresting officer’s report, Robinson was cooperative and never became argumentative with police during the incident.
“The lady was nice enough and courteous enough to let us know, ‘Well, I don’t think that’s really the case. I don’t think I have a warrant'," Landry said.
“So our guys, being the professionals they were, say ‘OK, let’s go to the jail, figure this out.' And, sure enough, when they get to the jail, they were unable to locate the warrant.”
Landry said Robinson wasn’t held very long.
Records show she actually got locked up for more than three hours before someone working at the jail noticed a problem.
Bossier City police didn’t have a valid warrant for Robinson’s arrest. And the robbery suspect actually was a man.
“You get me mixed up with a man. Not a woman, a man,” Robinson said. “I was puzzled.”
Robinson told KSLA Investigates that when police realized the computer mistake, they apologized then let her go home.
Through a public records request, KSLA Investigates learned that the new software cost more than $3 million and that the Bossier City Police Department put the system online in May.
But just two months after it went live, problems with that software landed Robinson in jail.
“So, of course, that ignites a flurry of emails the following morning on behalf of the officers and our supervisors to track down the problem, address it and fix it,” Landry said.
Emails between Police Department officials and the software company, obtained by KSLA Investigates through a public records request, indicate that Robinson’s “wrong arrest” happened because “bad data” got “converted into the live environment” of the new system.
“They were in the transition between the two systems,” Landry explained. “They were maneuvering between a lot of different things.”
According to her, Robinson’s case was a one-time problem that quickly got fixed.
“We were being very diligent and still are being very diligent in making sure things like that don’t occur with the changeover.”
But recalling her arrest on a warrant that didn’t exist, Robinson questions the diligence of Bossier City police officials, saying she’s nervous that another innocent person could wind up in jail just like her.
“I think they need to double check the system before they actually put it out there,” Robinson said.
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