The Carver County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) in southwestern Minnesota recently began using a new mobile fingerprint scanning device to help identify criminals on the run or in hiding.
The device allows deputies to scan an individual’s fingerprints and check their criminal status — such as whether they have warrant out for their arrest or have been booked before — on the state’s system.
“I think it’s going to be one of those tools every agency should and will have as part of their standard SOPs [Standard Operating Procedures] and tools that we have to do our job every day,” Carver County Lieutenant George Pufahl told CBS News.
Pufahl hopes the technology will help catch criminals who try to hide their identity.
“This is a great tool for us in law enforcement. It will impact us by helping capture those individuals evading law enforcement or who have always gotten away by giving false names hoping they’d never be checked in on,” he said.
In an interview with Southwest News Media, Carver County Sheriff Jason Kamerud explained the workings of the handheld fingerprint reading device and its origin as an “employee driven initiative.”
“One of the deputies did the research and brought the information to labor-management committee for consideration,” Kamerud wrote in an email. “There had been a handful of instances when we used the equipment from neighboring agencies, and recognized there are efficiencies in having the equipment in-house.”
The sheriff said the devices — developed by biometric software company DataWork Plus — will be used in criminal investigations when suspects are “unable or unwilling to provide credible identification.”
Kamerud explained how the device scans a person’s fingerprints in the same way a cellphone unlocks. After being scanned, the print is sent to a database over secured cellular service, where it is compared with other prints on the database to match an ID.
The department purchased two devices for $6,000, which includes client software and training.
“The device does not store prints or add data to the database,” Kamerud assured. “It compares the unknown print to known prints in the database. If the subject print matches a print in the database, we will receive the identification. If the subject print does not match any of the known prints in the database, we will not have an identification and will have to use other investigative methods to accurately identify the subject.”
Carver County officials said the tool has already shown promise in the field.
Last month — just 48 hours after the tool was rolled out — deputies arrested a man who had a warrant out for his arrest in Dakota County using the device.
According to a Facebook post released by the department, the man had avoided arrest for nine years.
“It is a game changer. It’s for those that have been in the wind and have always gotten away with not giving their true identity,” Pufahl stated. “And for us, this is a tool to help identify if their fingerprint has been put into the system at some point in their lives. It’s just exciting that this is one way to do our job, one way to capture somebody who’s done wrong.”
The sheriff’s office is one of a few in the state to make use of the technology, but officials expect more agencies to invest in it in the future.