Kansas Officials Clarify Mobile Print Policy
Updated: March 27th, 2006 09:59 AM EDT
Kansas City Star (MO) (KRT)
via NewsEdge Corporation
Mar. 26--Simple traffic stops will not be enough for police officers to demand on-the-spot fingerprint scans when portable devices are tested in the coming months, Kansas officials say.
"If you're pulled over for speeding, the law doesn't allow me to take your fingerprint," said Attorney General Phill Kline. "If you're wanted or a fugitive, then I can arrest you because there's a bench warrant. Then we take fingerprints to ensure identification, that you are the person who is wanted."
He said the same rules would apply to the mobile scanners.
Kline and other state officials clarified how the devices would be used after concerns arose last week that police would use them anytime they stop someone for a traffic violation. The devices were unveiled Tuesday. Kansas law allows police to take fingerprints from people arrested under a list of circumstances, including:
-- Higher-level misdemeanors such as assault or drunken driving.
-- Possession of stolen property or instruments associated with crime, such as burglary tools.
Kline said the mobile fingerprint scanners will allow police to quickly determine whether a suspect is wanted by another jurisdiction or has a dangerous past. The procedure also can immediately clear up situations of mistaken identity.
"Let's say you are saying, â??This is not me,' " Kline said. "And sure enough, it's not you."
The gadgets also could help identify corpses or missing persons found without identification.
Unlike fingerprints taken at a police station, officials say, any prints scanned with the mobile units will be used only for immediate identification and will not be stored in the state's larger fingerprint database.
Confusion about the scanners began when the media quoted Kansas Bureau of Investigation officials as saying that police could use the scanners under the same circumstances that they could ask for a driver's license, which would include traffic stops.
By Thursday, more than 70 persons had posted messages concerning the scanners on the online crime blog of The Kansas City Star. Most of the messages expressed outrage.
KBI Deputy Director Kyle Smith explained Friday that Kansas law does not allow officers to use the scanners for the minor infractions involved in most traffic stops.
"It doesn't change the law on when we can take fingerprints," Smith said. "It's not going to change the rules any."
Kline emphasized that the mobile fingerprint scanners were a small slice of a $3.6 million upgrade to Kansas' Automatic Fingerprint Identification System, which stores more than 10 million prints taken from people arrested throughout the state. A similar database exists in Missouri. Both link to a fingerprint system at the FBI.
Other upgrades to the Kansas system include the ability to analyze palm prints, which is not possible with the current technology. The new system also will store mug shots and pictures of tattoos, scars and other identifying marks.
The company responsible for the upgrade, Sagem Morpho Inc., of Tacoma, Wash., also manufactures the RapID, a black handheld gadget that lets police officers use fingerprints to identify a person while in the field. The scanner uses biometric technology, which makes an electronic scan of the person's index fingers and compares the prints against the larger state database.
Results can be obtained in seconds. About 60 scanners will be field-tested in Kansas over the next year.
Several law enforcement agencies in Missouri and Kansas use larger biometric scanners to take and store full sets of fingerprints from people they arrest. The Kansas field tests will be the first time that technology will be transferred to the patrol car.
Apparently the sky is not falling.
I live here and did not even know that it was coming. Wow. Just wow.