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Washington State city considers implementing new fingerprint ID system


Mercer Island, Washington is contemplating on signing an interlocal agreement with King County to install fingerprint identification systems in police cars that are designed to improve efficiency, according to a report by Mercer Island Reporter.

Provided by the County, the new $1,150 mobile ID devices are designed to help police officers identify suspects in the field that are lying about their names or other key information.

Remote searches are able to provide an ID response in under two minutes, which will help the officer to determine whether or not to take an individual into custody.

“It’s not something we absolutely have to have. (It’s) something that would be helpful for officers … because in fact, people do lie to us. Some people are intimidated by us, some not at all,” Police Chief Ed Holmes said at the council meeting. “The people that come here to do crimes are not intimidated … and will do everything they can to keep from getting arrested.”

The city currently uses a $15,000 livescan machine, provided by the county, which scans an individual’s fingerprints and sends them to the Automated Fingerprint Identification System. The fingerprints are then crosschecked against other records, including “latent” prints taken from crime scenes. They are then shared with the Washington State Patrol and FBI to be stored for state and national criminal history records.

With the recent unfavorable public opinion regarding police accountability and public trust, council members are worried that the mobile ID devices could potentially give police even more power that could be potentially abused.

Before making a decision on implementing the mobile ID device program, the council agreed that police interactions with citizens need to be discussed at greater length. It has set this issue as the topic for its upcoming January planning session.

According to the police, the mobile ID system and devices have been vetted with community members and the American Civil Liberties Union.

However, the Council recommended that it take three months to study civil liberties before it decides to use the technology.

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