The day when police can swipe a suspect’s finger through a device and check him instantly against a national database while standing on a city street, may not be far off, says the Charleston (SC) Post & Courier. North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt said a new handheld device his department acquired this week is a step in the right direction. It looks like a BlackBerry wireless device and allows an officer to check a national database for warrants and vehicle information. Until now, police had to call dispatchers, costing valuable minutes.
The gadget is made by the Atlanta-based American Law Enforcement Network (ALEN). The department purchased 10 handheld devices at just under $400 each. The city will have to pay about $30 in monthly subscription fees per unit. Francine Karp of ALEN, a former police officer in Connecticut, said she often pulled over vehicles without having a chance to learn the driver’s criminal history until it was too late. She said it’s crucial to know that a car is associated with a violent felon, or has been reported stolen, before approaching the driver. The device is in use by about 500 departments in five states.