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OC deputies, police officers to get mobile fingerprint scanners

Orange County law enforcement officers in the near future will be able to run fingerprints in the field through a county-approved program that will buy them mobile scanners.

While law enforcement officials say the hand-held scanners will streamline the identifying process of those they arrest and detain, some critics raise concerns about authorities having another tool to document biological information – especially during large events such as protests.

The $1 million-a-year contract with Virginia-based InCadence Strategic Solutions will put about 450 to 500 devices in the hands of Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies and city police officers likely by the end of 2021, said Bruce Houlihan, director of the OC Crime Lab.

“They’re primarily for identifying individuals,” Houlihan said. “If they got arrested in the past, their information will be in the system.”

Once the device — which looks like a large cellphone with a fingerpad attachment — is used, it compares the person’s prints to those from previous arrests by local and state agencies as well as FBI and Department of Justice records.

In some cases, the device makes it easier to identify those who are detained and aren’t being honest about their names, said Sheriff’s Sgt. Dennis Breckner.

“The way it works now …. we put them in the car, we get as much booking information as we can. We take their fingerprint card, take them to the jail and run the card … and see if comes up with the person’s name,” he said.

“This is going to cut out that necessity.”

Houlihan said the process of buying the devices and figuring out how many go to each agency is still in process. Agencies will decide how they divvy up the scanners.

These devices aren’t new. The Anaheim Police Department has been using similar BlueCheck mobile fingerprinting devices within the last 10 years approximately. Both the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have also used BlueCheck devices early as 2008.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the program on August 25. The meeting was met with some objections from the public, with fears the scanners would be used during protests.

“It’s going to further the police and surveillance state,” said a man who identified himself during the meeting as Patrick C. “How come the people who are getting detained can’t be fingerprinted when they’re booked?”

“We need to not just focus on spending money on more policing but realizing how that money being spent affects those communities.”

Chad Marlow, senior advocacy and policy counsel at the ACLU, said the devices add to the ways authorities use people’s physical traits to identify them and possibly be able to track them.

“Maybe it’s fingerprints today, maybe it’s face prints tomorrow,” Marlow said.

“There should be a very very high standard for the government to collect anyone’s biometrics and people should have the right to move anonymously in society,” he said.

But law enforcement authorities insist the technology will only be used on those already legally required to identify themselves to law enforcement.

“There was a concern that because of possible protests that this device was going to be used to stop and detain everybody that was at a protest and that’s just not the case,” Breckner said. “We need to have a legal intention and legal need to detain someone.”

The scanned fingerprints will not be stored in any database, Houlihan said.

“It’s not a booking device,” he said.

If the person has not been arrested in the past and submitted fingerprints, then the scanner won’t find any matches.

According to county documents, the devices will be paid for by a $1 fee on all vehicle registrations in Orange County, collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles statewide and distributed to the counties.

The $1 million-a-year contract with InCadence Strategic Solutions is effective for three years and is renewable for seven more one-year terms.

Source: Orange County Register

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