Sheriff’s Office getting fingerprint system

The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office is scheduled to receive 15 mobile biometric units that will aid in the identification of traffic violators pulled over without a valid ID.

The machines’ entire cost, approximately $750,000, is covered by a federal COPS Technology grant and requires no money from the county. Training is required, and the director of corrections Ned Newlin, who is managing the project, has already spent many hours on the grant application.

The mobile IBIS units, which resemble a dust-buster, have a fingerprint input pad and a digital camera that can send both prints and pictures to a central database, confirming or refuting a person’s stated identity.

“This allows us to be sure about who we are dealing with,” said Newlin. “We won’t fingerprint everyone we pull over — only those who appear to have incorrect identification.”

The system will integrate with state and national databases and could help identify terrorism suspects.

Newlin said the devices will save time for officers in the field. An officer unsure of a subject’s identity will ask permission to take fingerprints. After confirming the identity the officer may choose to issue a summons, a warning, or advise the subject of an upcoming mandatory court appearance.

“We don’t arrest everyone we come into contact with,” Newlin said.

Using the remote unit to transport fingerprints eliminates the need to travel to the jail with the subject for the same procedure. Newlin said this allows the subject more constructive time in the field.

Newlin said subjects are given a choice and, “We aren’t going to force anyone to be fingerprinted.”

On the other hand, subjects refusing the request are likely to be arrested. After an arrest, a subject must submit to the fingerprinting process.

A good example of a crime where a subject is released on his or her own recognizance is shoplifting, something that rarely involves incarceration.

“We want to be sure of who we have in custody so we can issue a citation under their real name,” Newlin said.

Newlin said the 15 units would be distributed as needed to various local law enforcement agencies. Some agencies may choose to train specific officers and install the units in one car, or train everyone and use the unit as needed.

Newlin said the Sheriff’s department itself would probably get about four of the units.

While some of the units may arrive prior to that date, Newlin expects full operation by February 2006.

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