Electronic fingerprinting system speeds up police work

From ink-stained cards to electronic fingerprinting.

A piece of new equipment has changed the way the Auburn Police Department takes fingerprints, yielding clean results, speeding up the process.

Speeding it up a lot.

And saving a few bucks.

"That's approximately $4,000 in annual savings we get by going to this," Bill Peloza, chair of the Municipal Services Committee commented Monday during Assistant Police Chief Bill Pierson's presentation on the new fingerprinting system. "Hey, it's tax dollars saved, man."

Auburn police collect fingerprints of suspects and take them of new police hires and people applying for concealed weapons permits.

Under the old regime, a technician had to be physically present, once a week, and only between certain hours, to physically roll an individual's fingers in ink and complete the process.

Each person to be fingerprinted required three cards.

With the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), officers bring in the individual, press his or her prints against a glass screen and the computer does the rest, as if the prints had been put on cards.

But where the old system took a month or more to get word back from the FBI, the new system can yield results in a day or two.

No longer do police run the risk of doing cards improperly, prompting the FBI to direct them to bring the person back to the station to be fingerprinted again. That's because IAFIS won't let police submit prints, Pierson said, unless they are perfect. That is, unless they can be read electronically.

So far, so good.

At the moment, however, there is one important limitation.

"We're not able (at this time) to have it in a secure location. We can't bring a suspect of a crime into our police department whom we can't identify because now we have to uncuff them, and we run the risk of a fight ensuing and a suspect winning that fight and having a suspect running through the police department. The future is to find a way to use the machine in a secure location," Pierson said.

Pierson then turned to how the new system works for concealed weapons permit applications.

"What we would typically do in the past with a concealed weapons permit is that someone would come in and fill out an application. The technician would fingerprint the person and send everything off, and sometimes it would come back a month or two later. We would get it, and if the person passed background, a specialist had to come in to type out the card. Then we would call the person in and give them the permit.

"Now, we do it online," Pierson said. "A person fills out an application and we put that pistol license right into the state system. ... What we really get is better customer service and the ability to get these licenses to residents much faster," Pierson said.

According to Pierson, about 1,000 Auburn residents have concealed weapons permits.

The fee for a concealed weapons permit is $50.

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