Deputies can check your fingerprints - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Deputies can check your fingerprints

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Law enforcement chiefs speak to the county commission about the technology Law enforcement chiefs speak to the county commission about the technology

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  Dougherty County law officers will soon be using handheld devices to find out if people they are questioning are wanted for other crimes or have a criminal background.

The sheriff's office just received a grant for $21,000 which will allow it to buy six rapidID fingerprint scanners, and they plan to share that technology.

Law enforcement officers frequently come in contact with people who have criminal histories, but are sometimes less than forthcoming about who they actually are. This device, about the size of a smartphone like this, will allow police to verify identity on the spot, as well as check criminal histories. 

When the Albany Dougherty SWAT team raided a home and tried to arrest a shooting suspect last week, they weren't positive they had the right guy. 

"Everybody was saying it was a different name, giving us a false date of birth. We brought him back outside. The pictures we had from an old booking sheet looked close, but weren't exact and we didn't have anyway to really make sure," Maj. Bill Berry of the Albany Dougherty Drug Unit.

Probation officers had to be brought to the scene to give a positive identification. A new RapidID fingerprint scanner will allow officers to check and verify ID without tying up officers or shutting down a neighborhood.

"This speeds it up and provides a whole lot of time for us to get back in service,"  Berry said.

The Sheriff's office applied for and received a grant that will provide six devices for the county. Sheriff Kevin Sproul is keeping four for his department but sharing a unit each with the drug unit and police department. 

"We can take that fingerprint ID system right there to the scene, put their finger on it, scan it within 10-30 seconds, get a return on whether or not that person is wanted," Sproul said.

And to see if that person is telling the truth about who they really are. Only people who police have probable cause to question about a crime and plan to arrest can be checked.

"If we've got a right to be there and have the need to question your identification and then you can't provide an identification, this gives us a tool that will allow us to verify."  said Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek.

Because believe it or not, sometimes when people are about to be arrested, they aren't always truthful about who they are and their criminal histories. "If we get somebody that we have probably cause, reason to believe has given us a false identification, which we run into, not everyday, but on a semi regular basis, this will resolve that question," Cheek said.

 And resolve the need to bring someone to the scene to identify them or to bring them to the jail for a fingerprint scan.

The grant allowed for dozens of agencies across the state to purchase the devices. In addition to Dougherty County, Lowndes county is the only place south of Macon to have them.  The grant covers the purchase cost as well as maintenance costs for the first year.

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