October 27, 2009 By Elaine Rundle
The Sarasota County, Fla., Sheriff's Office has deployed handheld devices that scan fingerprints to aid officers working in the field. The Sheriff's Office purchased 14 of the handheld scanners that connect to state and local databases and the FBI Repository for Individuals of Special Concern to identify individuals. The devices allow police officers to positively identify people in the field, instead of returning to the jail to process the information.
The devices -- which utilize Motorola's MC75 Enterprise Digital Assistant outfitted with a fingerprint scanner and idSoftware's PrintSearch Mobile software -- cost about $4,100 each were paid for out of the office's drug forfeiture fund.
"In the field, officers will, on most occasions, be able to obtain the true identity of someone by obtaining a fingerprint, thus being able to charge them if they are providing false information," said Wendy Rose, community affairs manager for the Sheriff's Office, via e-mail. "Currently if the person provides a name and no record is found in the system when dispatch runs a search, that person might be released. With fingerprint data, the true identity can usually be determined. Example: A person gives their brother or sister's information which might lead to a citation or arrest in that person's name unless we can properly identify them."
Rose said the devices have allowed officers to identify numerous individuals who gave false names and one person who entered the U.S. illegally. In one incident, deputies were at the scene of a vehicle crash and a man gave the officers a driver's license that didn't appear to belong to him, according to a document from the Sheriff's Office. The deputies scanned the man's fingerprints into PrintSearch Mobile, which provided the man's correct name and a photo of him. Deputies learned that the man didn't have a valid driver's license and had an outstanding warrant in South Carolina.
Rose said the motivation behind implementing the technology was to let police officers access the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's FALCON, a Web portal that biometrically identifies an individual based on fingerprints, pulls criminal information from state and local databases, and provides photos of individuals' scars, tattoos and other identifying marks.
The devices use Bluetooth connectivity to let officers leave their patrol cars while staying connected to the database. Rose said the Sheriff's Office is testing the use of Mi-Fi cards, mobile hotspot cards that can connect multiple devices, which officers carry in their pockets to allow them to use the handheld scanners further away from their patrol cars during large crowd situations, like county fairs.