Arizona police forces testing fingerprint scanners

September 5, 2012 - 

Police departments throughout Arizona are testing out MorpholDent, a portable fingerprint device that is about the size of iPhone.

The handheld mobile device revolutionizes police work by allowing peace officers to verify the identity of a person within minutes. The device is manufactured by Morpho, a subsidiary of Safran Group, a French-based firm.

The MorphoIDent captures two fingerprint images per subject and sends it to the police agency’s fingerprint database for search. The search system is designed to rapidly return result a response, and the MorphoIDent vibrates to indicate to the officer that results are available. The data obtained if there is a fingerprint match allows the officer to deal more appropriately with the subject. If there is no match, the print is discarded.

The device does not require its own connection via a cellular service provider to perform identification matches. The MorphoIDent connects to a computer via Bluetooth and will use an existing patrol car connection to communicate with the police department’s automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS).

The device is being provided free of charge by MorphoTrak, Inc. to police departments in Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe and Glendale. The Arizona Department of Public Safety is also participating and Peoria, Yuma and Lake Havasu City will eventually be provided with free handheld mobile devices as well. Even the Arizona Department of Corrections is using the device to identify inmates at intake and release.

Using MorpholDent has reaped benefits to police officers in places like Mesa as part of a six-month pilot project. It helped to positively identify those involved in cases such as: driving under the influence and domestic violence.

According to Bill Kalaf of the Mesa Police: “The whole idea is to get the right information to the right officer during an incident or an investigation. You don’t want to let the bad guy go.”

Mesa will soon also benefit from another test pilot project focused on the Morpho Lift product Morpho Lift is a device that allows crime scene technicians to capture fingerprints at a crime scene, download the images to laptop computers and run them through an automated fingerprint identification system databank.

MorpholDent does not come cheap: each unit costs US$1,717. Tucson Police ordered the units after their own test trial.

Is MorpholDent worth the investment for Arizona’s law enforcement agencies?

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.