If Mesa police suspect you’re up to no good and want to identify you quickly on the street, it turns out they’d like you to just give them the finger.
OK, not THAT finger. Make it a couple of other digits.
Some officers are now requesting suspects let police scan both index fingers with a new mobile phone-sized device that can identify people in seconds without making a time-consuming trip to a fingerprint scanner at the downtown jail.
The wireless device is one of two high-tech instruments police are deploying this summer, along with 50 glasses-mounted cameras that record every interaction officers have with suspects.
The fingerprint scanners were tested in July at DUI checkpoints and worked without problem, said Bill Kalaf, Mesa’s executive director of intelligence-led policing.
Police with the device hold it in front of a suspect, who presses an index finger on a screen until the gadget buzzes to confirm a successful scan. The suspect repeats the process with the other finger.
“It can’t get much simpler,” Kalaf said. “All you do is push a button and it tells you what to do.”
The information is sent wirelessly to The Arizona Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which has more than 2 million prints. The device quickly responds whether there is a match or not.
If the print matches, the device’s screen will display the person’s name, date of birth, picture and whether the database includes DNA.
Results usually come back in two minutes or less, but sometimes within 30 seconds.
“Training is all of about 10 to 15 seconds,” Kalaf said. “Officers love it because it’s so simple to use.”
Kalaf said the quick results help police confirm identities much easier when people don’t have identification with them, lie to officers or have fraudulent documents.
Police hope the mobile scanner can help police work more efficiently because the only other option to get a fingerprint is to drive a suspect to the downtown jail. Kalaf said the device should be welcome to people who can be cleared on the street, because they won’t have to have police take them downtown for fingerprinting.
Mesa is testing six devices now with patrol officers. If Mesa is pleased after a roughly six-month test, it will consider arming more of its nearly 300 patrol officers with them. The scanners are on loan from Morpho, a manufacturer of identification and security products. The scanners cost $500 to $1,000 each.
Police are also continuing to test cameras mounted on officers by equipping 50 police with cameras as soon as September. Mesa has tested an earlier generation of the cameras but wants to keep evaluating their potential to help police record evidence at a scene and to help document officer behavior when the public files a complaint.
The cameras are built by Scottsdale-based Taser International, a major supplier of stun guns. Police will seek volunteers to wear the cameras for a year-long test.
The cameras record all the time and download information to a small hard drive that officers can’t erase. That allows police supervisors to see an entire interaction and not just a provocative segment that’s taken out of context, police Chief Frank Milstead said.
Milstead said that since so many things are now filmed by smart phones, police should be able to have their own recording. The cameras should reduce police abuse claims that are false, because Milstead said people who wage misconduct allegations typically drop the matter when they learn an interaction has been recorded.
“It’s hard to argue with something that’s on tape,” he said.
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