How to buy automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS)
By Tim Dees
Many law enforcement agencies, especially smaller ones with lower arrest volumes, continue to produce and retain tenprint cards in file cabinets. Many of these cards are eventually scanned into an AFIS, but the organizations that produced and maintain the files often have no direct access to that system. Here are three points to remember when considering an AFIS purchase:
Consideration should also be given to the number of existing paper records that will be converted for use in the digital database, how many new records will be added, and an estimate of how many and what type of searches will likely be conducted each day.
2. LiveScanning Capability
Fingerprinting someone using LiveScan requires far less skill than with inked prints. The subject places the "pad" of each finger on the platen, and a computer display alongside shows the ridge detail. The operator pushes a button to capture the image, or some systems will sense when a good image is displayed and capture it automatically. When the display shows that all fingers have been scanned, the data is either sent to the image server or queued for later transmission to the state or national level.
AFIS is a wonderful tool, but it is no substitute for a human fingerprint examiner. Whenever there is a question as to whether a fingerprint belongs to a specific person, the final call is made by a human. AFIS can narrow the field of possibilities, but total reliance on a machine for identification is a path to a bad arrest and a civil rights investigation.
Tim Dees is a retired police officer and the former editor of two major law enforcement websites who writes and consults on technology applications in criminal justice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AFIX Technologies contributed to this How to Buy guide.
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