Region 8 sheriff's department makes fingerprinting easier

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) -The days of ink pads and messy fingers are over for most police departments, but getting fingerprints into the system is still time consuming!  Now one Region 8 sheriff's department has a new system that's making their jobs a lot easier.  It's called "AFIS" or Automated Fingerprint Identification System.  Larger towns and some counties have the machine but many do not.  Now officers in Lawrence County are able to get folks processed more quickly and efficiently!

"I love it.  It's a lot easier to use.  It's a lot quicker to use.  You don't have the black mess that you used to have on your fingers," said Lawrence County Sheriff's Deputy Terrence Ward.

Two weeks ago they were using an old system in Lawrence County.

"We had to use the heated pad and take fingerprints.  You had to get the hard copies and you had to mail them in and you had the lag time," said Lawrence County Sheriff Dan Ellison.

Sheriff Ellison said it could take up to two weeks to get the fingerprints and charges into the system.  Now the county has AFIS, cutting the time down dramatically!

"It's something that you can use to run criminal inquiries," said Ward.  "When you finish your fingerprinting and you print it off it sends it directly to ACIC and within 20, 25 minutes you either get your return on who that person is or it's showing charges on their criminal record for other agencies."

There are cases where officers cannot identify a suspect.  Earlier in the year, Ellison said they had a suspect who refused to cooperate or give his name to officers.

"We immediately took him to the AFISs system in Craighead County, which they do have, and he was identified within minutes as an escapee out of Michigan," said Ellison.

That's where a machine like AFIS can save the county time and money.

Most counties can't afford a system like this one.  To purchase AFIS it costs a little more than $50,000.  Thanks to a grant, Ellison says most of that was funded by the Justice Department.  Lawrence County had to pay a little over the top. 

"It's not something that these counties can do everyday, come up with that kind of money," said Ellison.

Currently their system only allows them to do fingerprints, but the machine is capable of a lot more.  Ellison said they are looking at their options to expand what they can do with the machine including comparing handwriting samples and a retina scanner.

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