In the News

Scanning Replaces Ink Prints

MACHINE SAVES TIME FOR OFFICERS, PUBLIC

Posted: March 26, 2012 at 5:25 a.m.

 — Fingerprinting ink is disappearing from police stations.

The Springdale Police Department has switched to a digital fingerprinting machine that scans fingers without inking them. The new machine saves time, both for officers and those who need a fingerprint card for work or permits.

“It takes about half the time than inking fingers did,” said Sgt. Jerry Corken. “Plus, you know right away if the prints are good.”

The time savings is important for the Springdale officer on desk duty, who has to juggle members of the public needing to be fingerprinted with those registering complaints or trying to bail out someone in custody.

“I’ve walked through the lobby several times when it’s full of people waiting to be fingerprinted,” said Kathy O’Kelley, police chief. “We’re about the last place in the area that people can come to get their fingerprints.”

The only access Northwest Arkansas residents have to an inkless fingerprinting machine is at the Springdale Police Department.

Those who need to be fingerprinted include teachers, health care workers, government contractors and those seeking concealed weapon permits, Corken said.

“It seems like more and more people have to be fingerprinted for their work,” Corken said. “I think it’s fallout from 9/11 with the need for more security.”

People come in from all over Washington County, as well as Siloam Springs and Rogers to be fingerprinted, Corken said.

Joe Claborn, of Springdale, came to the station Friday. He is trying to get a teacher certification in Arkansas. He now drives to Watts, Okla., each day to teach.

“In Oklahoma, I went to the state capital to be fingerprinted,” Claborn said.

Arkansas and Oklahoma, as well as most other states, require fingerprint cards as part of background checks on teachers, according to each state’s Department of Education.

Claborn left the police station after about 10 minutes holding his fingerprint card.

“It’s nice, when you get fingerprints, that you know it’s good,” Claborn said. “My brother had to send his card in two or three times before he got a good one.”

The old inked prints sometimes didn’t come out clear enough to read, O’Kelley said. If the ink is too light or too dark, the prints are rejected, she said.

“I think our failure rate was about 30 percent,” O’Kelley said. “You’d mail them in and the state would sent it back a month later. Rolling a finger with ink is an art and we don’t have the time to teach it to everyone.”

The new machine, an LS1100 Digital LiveScan System, grades the fingerprints with a score and a color. Green is an excellent print, yellow is acceptable and red is rescanned.

Springdale has two of the new machines, one in front for the public and a second in back for prisoners.

“It’s more secure back there, where we don’t have to bring them to the front of the station,” Corken said.

People arrested on suspicion of committing Class A misdemeanors are fingerprinted at the station. Suspects’ results are sent digitally by the machine directly to the state, Corken said.

“If we are looking for a match in a hurry, we can get results back in about half an hour,” Corken said.

Those with felonies are fingerprinted on an older digital machine at the county jail, Corken said. The Springdale jail does not house those facing felony charges.

The machines cost about $7,500 each and were included in the city’s 2012 budget, O’Kelley said.

Secure Outcomes of Evergreen, Colo., provided the machines.

“We have machines in about eight locations in Arkansas,” Harper said. “We just finished being certified in Arkansas.”

Fort Smith is the closest city to Northwest Arkansas to have one of the LiveScan machines, Harper said.

Across the state, 39 digital machines are connected to the state fingerprinting system, said Bill Sadler, public affairs officer with the Arkansas State Police. The digital program began in 1998, he said.

Many of those departments use an old, huge machine that cost about $50,000 when new, Corken said. The new machines are about the size of a briefcase and can be carried into the field.

“We could take it to a school and fingerprint a large number of kids at one time,” Corken said.

Once any bugs are worked out, Springdale police plan to charge about $10 for fingerprinting those who live and work outside of Springdale, O’Kelley said. Those who live or work in the city would still be free, she said.

AT A GLANCE

Springdale Police Fingerprinting

The department offers a fingerprinting service to the public. It is required to fingerprint all Class A misdemeanor suspects.

Class A misdemeanors include:

  • First-degree assault
  • Third-degree battery
  • First- and second-degree criminal mischief
  • Flight from an officer
  • Harassment
  • Possession of a controlled substance
  • Resisting arrest
  • Shoplifting
  • Theft of property
  • Violation of a protection order

Source: Springdale Police Department

Steve Caraway

The Morning News

Northwest Arkansas Newspapers

479-872-5045

scaraway@nwaonline.com

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