ILLINOIS STATE POLICE BATTLES FIREARMS BACKLOG
The Firearms Owner’s Identification card was first enacted by the Illinois legislature 52 years ago. Since that time, the Illinois State Police Firearms Services Bureau has been tasked with the administration of the FOID card, the concealed carry license (CCL), the Firearms Transfer Inquiry Program (FTIP), gun dealer licensing, appeals, background correlations, investigative support, enforcement and customer service for the firearms safety laws of Illinois.
ROOTS OF THE CURRENT BACKLOG CHALLENGE
The demands placed on our state’s firearms safety system have been outgrowing capacity for years:
- The number of FOID card holders has grown from 1.2 million to 2.2 million in a decade.
- CCL holders grew from 90,301 in 2014 to 343,299 in 2020.
- Due to the lengthy budget impasses, the Firearms Services Fund was “swept” in 2015 and 2018 and no plan to maintain or expand staffing was developed during that period. The current administration has not swept the fund and, in 2019, new leadership over ISP FSB initiated a hiring plan and metrics-based strategic plan focused on outcomes and accountability.
This year, the ISP FSB was confronted with a massive work increase across all categories:
- FOID card applications increased 167% from 166,649 in 2017 to 445,945 as of November 2020, blowing past the small surge in 2013 when CCL was enacted.
- FTIPS increased 45% from 2019 reaching 506,104 so far in 2020.
- ISP FSB processed an unprecedented 64,000+ FTIPs in March 2020 -- the largest number recorded for one month until that record was broken in June with 65,000+ FTIPs.
- ISP FSB has processed more than 67,000 incoming records (correlations*) in 2020.
- More than 400,000 calls came into the FSB Call Center from May to November when a new automated phone system with metrics was activated.
HOW ISP IS CONFRONTING THE CHALLENGE
ISP FSB is facing this unprecedented confluence of demands head on with increased staffing, process mapping and analysis, technology, flexibility and transparency:
- Director authorized hiring of 32 additional firearms eligibility analysts in February and additional hiring of temporary contractors.
- FSB began an active recruiting effort to fill vacant Firearms positions in the FSB and retain employees in these positions hurt by turnover.
- ISP FSB was directed in 2019 to refine application processes using well-known management analytics called Lean Six Sigma or Rapid Results, which has been used successfully across a number of sectors to increase efficiency by removing unnecessary steps and reducing variation. The ISP has used this process to reduce the Forensic backlog by 48%. ISP authorized a state-contracted service specializing in Rapid Results methodology to implement effective and efficient measures to assist in decreasing the backlog.
- ISP FSB modernized its Call Center with a Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) system in April 2020, which provides a menu of automated processes, such as status checks, payments and specific applications to replace the antiquated single line system.
- ISP online access was redesigned to allow applications to be submitted from mobile phones and tablets with user ID and password recovery capabilities to improve customer service and responsiveness.
- ISP provided relief to FOID card holders and CCLs by submitting emergency rules addressing renewals during the COVID-19 epidemic through which FOID cards and CCLs remain valid during the renewal process, if a renewal application was properly submitted by the cardholder.
- ISP provided detailed, transparent briefings to the Illinois General Assembly Restore Illinois Commission and other policy makers and stakeholders throughout 2020.
PROGRESS SO FAR
With staffing increases, elimination of internal redundancies, and execution of technology upgrades, some metrics are slowly, but steadily improving. This progress has been achieved by:
- hiring 21 Firearms Eligibility Analysts hired since March 2020, with 11 additional planned to start in January 2021.
- dedicating 19 temporary contractual employees to ISP FSB.
- temporarily assigning 7 sworn personnel to ISP FSB.
- implementing 7 of 14 major Lean Six Sigma changes to the process.
- the adoption of recommendations in FOID processing resulted in a 33% improvement in productivity in individual background processing.
- the implementation of the Call Center VoIP system implementation in April 2020, nearly 100,000 calls have been handled through the system's self-service capabilities.
- cleared approximately 67,000 correlations* in CY20.
- holding down processing times averaging well below the 72-hour waiting period, even with a 45 percent increase in FTIP transactions from CY19 to CY20.
- processing 216,805 FOID applications this year.
- processing 50,557 CCLs this year.
- FSB staff working approximately 17,000 hours of overtime.
- processing more new applications were than received in October and November. This is the first time this has happened in CY20. More than 24,000 applications processed in November alone.
THE CHALLENGE AHEAD
Average time for processing a FOID application is 121 days and the average time for a CCL is 145 days. These outcomes are unacceptable to the ISP. Staffing, internal modifications and technology alone will not resolve this issue. The Lean Six Sigma/Rapid Results analysis and firearms services review produced many recommendations requiring statutory authority from the General Assembly to overcome the numerous redundancies in the overlapping FOID process, the CCL process, the FTIP process and the records correlation process that double or triple the workload of ISP FSB personnel without improving public safety outcomes. With over 10,000 FOID revocations and with over 4,700 FTIP denials in 2020, enforcement also remains a serious concern. The conclusions presented to the Restore Illinois Commission in October showed the varied firearms safety processes that have evolved inconsistently over sixty years must be integrated into a modern firearms safety structure that efficiently screens applicants and prioritizes safety. This cannot be accomplished without the support of the General Assembly.
“Aurora showed to everyone that Illinois should be using less of our resources on an antiquated, outdated, inefficient, ineffective renewal process from the 1960s and more on enforcement against real threats to public safety,” said ISP Director Brendan Kelly. “Our people believe in building a system that makes it hard for the bad guys and simple and safe for the good guys. The Illinois State Police will keep pushing hard, but frankly we will need authority from the legislature to untangle, streamline and integrate the aging patchwork of FOID, concealed carry, firearms transactions, and records checks if we are going to fulfill this mission.”
*Each day hundreds of criminal history and mental health records are processed by FSB personnel and compared against current FOID cardholders. The timely correlation of these records ensures that FOID cards of prohibited individuals are revoked.
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