New technology lets Mich. police use mobile computers to identify suspects on the spot

By Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mi. - A recently signed agreement between some police departments and the Michigan State Police will mean thousands of law enforcement officers will soon have the ability to confirm the true identity of suspects quicker and with more accuracy.

And they''ll be able to do it on the street.

Under the plan, the state police and the Oakland County-based Courts and Law Enforcement Management Information System (CLEMIS) will have access to each other''s fingerprint and mug shot databases and be able to obtain such information by mobile computers. That means an officer who pulls a suspect over will be able to establish within minutes if the person is who they say they are or if they are a fugitive from justice attempting to conceal their identity.

"A wanted criminal''s best defense against apprehension is to withhold or provide false identification," said Joseph Sullivan, manager of the CLEMIS computer program. "Now officers will be able to quickly cut through any deception by submitting the person''s fingerprints to determine who they actually are."

Traditionally, mug shots and fingerprints could only be obtained after a suspect was placed under arrest and taken into a station for booking and incarceration.

CLEMIS has more than 90 police departments across six counties, and a mug shot data base of more than 1.3 million criminals. The Michigan State Police will add information on another 402,000 criminals, said Jeremy Slavish, project manager for the state police.

Oakland County''s ambitious plan was to include as many police and fire departments in a countywide radio communications system as possible. The program was jump-started in 2000 when Oakland County obtained a $17.6 million federal COPS technology grant to help upgrade the system''s equipment and intelligence-gathering capabilities.

With an additional $6 million from county coffers, mobile computers were purchased for patrol cars and the county has expanded its video arraignment system, which allows magistrates and judges to formally charge prisoners without them being transported from lockups to district or county courtrooms several miles away. The technology has helped free up more police for street patrols rather than escorting prisoners.

A 57-cent monthly surcharge on all telephone bills in Oakland County since 2000 has generated an additional $36 million for expansion of CLEMIS operations. The surcharge expires in 2006.

"The end result of this data-sharing agreement will be to take child molesters, rapists, robbers and killers off the street before they have an opportunity to hurt more people," said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

Restaurateur John Ginopolis of West Bloomfield said he was "unequivocally in favor" of the partnership.

"I applaud this as both a resident and as a businessman," said the 62-year-old Ginopolis, whose family has been in the restaurant business in Metro Detroit since 1948. "It should also help solve some crimes faster. "

Farmington Hills Police Chief William Dwyer has been chairman of CLEMIS for 10 years and said it''s a matter of technology, politics and cooperation finally coming together. "We''ve really been expanding CLEMIS into the best law enforcement data-sharing consortium in the nation," Dwyer said. "We started with taking care of law enforcement in Oakland County and then expanded out to Wayne, Macomb, Washtenaw, and others."

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