November 4, 2009 By Elaine Rundle
Police officers in Troy, N.Y., now have additional accountability for tracking weapons and other items through the use of a biometric access control system. The Troy Police Department deployed computerized lockers that verify officers' fingerprints and equipment access privileges before issuing items like Tasers (pictured), rifles and shotguns.
Sgt. Randall French said each employee's fingerprint is on file with the LEID Biometric Access Control System as well as what items they are allowed to check out. "When somebody wishes to take something out, they place their finger on the scanner and it automatically recognizes who they are and what their capabilities are," he said.
When an officer needs to obtain an item from the computerized locker, he scans his fingerprint at the identification station. After the computer recognizes the officer, he then selects the "acquire/return" function and the computer shows a list of what items he is authorized to check out. The officer selects which item he needs and the system unlocks the appropriate locker.
For additional accountability, each item is outfitted with a radio frequency identification tag. French said when an officer is ready to return the equipment, he selects the return option on the identification station. Then he waves the weapon or Taser in front of a scanner, which recognizes which item is being returned.
"So just in the off chance that -- not that this would happen -- but say that somebody lost their piece of equipment, they tell it it's been returned, but the system actually knows if it has been returned or not because of the radio frequency identification tag," French said.
Supervisors can track who has what equipment via a Web site. "It's just good accountability for all of our equipment," he said.
In the event of an emergency, the system features an emergency button that any officer can activate. However, after the emergency setting is activated, the system considers all the items to be lost and it must be manually updated. "We did have one incidence where somebody did hit that by mistake and it was interesting," French said. "We had to go back in and tell everything what is where and all that kind of stuff."
According to the Albany Times Union, the city spent $76,000 to purchase and install the system in three police stations.
Prior to implementing the system, French said a desk sergeant was responsible for recording which equipment was in use by which officer. However, if a shift had a busy start, officers didn't have time to tell the sergeant what equipment they needed. "Now he can just go to this Web site to see what equipment is where and who has what," he said.
Photo: Taser X26/Photo by Junglecat. Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0