Sheriff installs computerized booking machine

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

LINDEN – Criminals in Marengo County can no longer count on snail mail to allow them to go free when they are arrested here, but have warrants elsewhere, because the Marengo County Sheriff’s Department now has electronic fingerprinting, technology that allows officers to run fingerprints statewide within a few hours and nationwide by the next day.

“It keeps us from letting someone out of jail who is wanted somewhere else,” Kevin McKinney, EMA director and representative for the Marengo County Jail Monday, said.

The technology is not new, but in the past only agencies that could afford the $40,000 for the software and hardware, had it. Now, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation is funding the technology for all agencies that don’t have it so that all law enforcement agencies will be linked.

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The biometric electronic fingerprinting system, as it is formally called, replaces the current system of ink printing for criminal and applicant cards – such as state workers and teachers.

“Once the fingerprints are scanned and the data put in, this system electronically sends the prints over the network to Montgomery where they are immediately put into AFIS (Automated Fingerprinting Information System,” McKinney said.

AFIS is a statewide database that includes all fingerprints that have ever been filed anywhere in the state. That database can be instantly searched to find a match to fingerprints transmitted from the biometric system.

“Once it hits AFIS, the prints are run through and there is about a two-hour turnaround,” McKinney said. “The prints are then sent electronically to the FBI and run through the national and international databases. There is approximately a 24-hour turnaround on that.”

McKinney said the system is already in place in 90 percent of the state’s law enforcement agencies, including Sumter and Greene counties.

The system includes a computer, finger scanner and printer. Once a person’s fingerprints are scanned, they are printed out on a criminal or applicant card similar to the ones used now.

“The software takes care of the text and data fields,” McKinney said.

The card represents a hard copy to be filed, while the electronic copy is instantly sent to Montgomery.

McKinney said the process is cleaner, quicker and much more efficient than currently.

“All this used to be done by mail, which took weeks,” he said. ” We took the fingerprint cards, bundled them together usually about the end of the week and mailed them to Montgomery. Once there, they were manually put into the system and manually checked against other prints in the AFIS system. Then it was sent on to FBI. Total time was several weeks, now you’re looking at about a 30-hour window before FBI has them.”

The system was installed Monday, but will not be fully operational for a few days as officers are trained on how to use the new technology.

“We will have a training period during which all of our officers, 12 total, will be trained on how to use this system,” McKinney said.

In addition to the efficiency of the new program, the primary goal is to eliminate paper.

“The ABI is trying to integrate everyone and get everyone to stop doing paper submissions,” McKinney said. “The FBI is doing the same thing, not just Alabama, but

nationwide they’re trying to stop paper submissions.