Biometric identification devices connected to high-speed wireless communications could become widely available to police officers in the field, not just those back at headquarters, reports the New York Times. Hand-held devices that can be used to scan fingerprints digitally and match the results against large databases are being tested by several law enforcement agencies. The products could have uses in the private sector, in banking and employee identification, for example.
The Portland, Or., police department has been testing a mobile fingerprint identification device since April. Called IBIS and made by a Minnesota company called Identix, the unit is slightly larger than an ordinary hand-held computer. It can scan fingerprints and then compare them with records kept by members of the Western Identification Network (www.winid.org), law enforcement agencies in Western states with a database of more than 3.5 million fingerprint records. If there is a match, the person’s name appears on the screen, usually within a few minutes and in many cases with a mug shot. Capt. Martin Rowley of the Portland police said the device was a major time saver: it can eliminate a trip to a downtown booking facility – 15 miles away from some districts – where it might take hours for the system to process a person. Portland has 10 IBIS units, bought with $250,000 in federal grants, and it plans to add another 17 by November.