Local sheriff's department using mobile fingerprint scanners

Posted: 7:58 AM, Aug 11, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-11 07:58:41-04

Some local police departments are now able to run fingerprints on the go. The Eaton County Sheriff's office is one of the first in the state to get mobile fingerprint scanners, which will help them more easily identify people.

The device works by scanning two fingers, then sending that information to a computer in the officer's car. That connects to both the Michigan Automated Fingerprint System and the FBI's fingerprint system. Within minutes of the scan, officers can find out if there's a match.

It's something Sgt. Tom Campbell says the department will be using when a driver that gets pulled over doesn't have an ID.

"We'd ask their name, date of birth information and we'd either believe them or if we didn't believe them we'd end up taking them to jail for a violation of not having their drivers license on them," Sgt. Campbell explained.

The scan is optional and can be used for more than just traffic stops.

"An unconscious individual, if we're not getting any names whatsoever from this individual," Sheriff Tom Reich explained.

Sheriff Reich says the biggest benefit is knowing if someone has an outstanding warrant, which is exactly what happened the first time the department used the scanner.

"We identified an individual who had two felony warrants out of Eaton County and one out of state, so it does work," he added.

The only time someone couldn't opt out of the scan is if they're being picked up on charges where they would be required to be fingerprinted in jail, at the minimum that's a 93-day misdemeanor charge.

"If you're not wanted on any outstanding warrants it's not going to hurt you at all," said Attorney Patrick O'Keefe.

That's because your prints have to be in the system to show up, but O'Keefe, who's a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer, say it's important to know your rights.

"If I'm standing out on the street and a police officer walks up to me and asks me to produce my ID when I'm not doing anything wrong, I have a right to tell them no," he said.

Sheriff Reich says they're not using the scanners to collect evidence, just to figure out someone's identity when they have no other options.

"It's going to be a great tool," Reich said.

Right now, Eaton County says only its Sergeants will be using them but they do plan on training Deputies.

Five other police departments and the state police will be carrying the scanners.