I saw a great little gadget in a recent issue of American Cop (March-April 2010 issue on page 20).

Called the VERIFIER, it’s a baton-shaped “Mobile Wireless Fingerprint Scanner” that takes a suspect’s fingerprint in the field and runs it through the local PD database through the squad car or a field station’s wifi connection. Depending on how nationally connected the local PD’s network is, it can also route the scan through any other national database to confirm the individual’s ID. According to the article, in about 10 minutes, any results on the suspect will be returned to the field officer.

My first reaction? Cool gadget!

My second reaction? Hmmm.

On the one hand, there’s a ton of “pros” for this device.

  • Instant on-site body identification (Hey CBS- put this on CSI already!)
  • Instant verification of someone who says they do not have their ID. (No ID on you? No problem! Just put your finger right here if you please…)
  • Validation of every presented form of identification (IE: no more fake driver’s licenses from out of state or out of country!)
  • Reliable identity confirmation (IE: no mis-reading license numbers over the radio or dealing with old and busted ID swipe-pads in a patrol car).
  • Reasonably cheap at $2,000 per unit.
  • And probably best of all, a much faster initiation of booking and processing of a suspect in the legal system.

On the other hand, there’s the big ugly potential this can create a “fingerprint national database” just based on traffic stops.

I know a national database exists based on driver’s licenses alone, but I strongly oppose a national database based on fingerprint/DNA information of individuals not accused of any crime.

Plus, I have a bad feeling this is going to wind up in the courts pretty quick. Here’s my hypothetical… a very smart, thorough and well-intentioned police officer somewhere is going to use the VERIFIER on a suspect he has a valid “gut feeling” about, even though the suspect will have an ID they have already presented to the police officer. If the suspect gets busted based on the VERIFIER’S scan, the big question will be if they were technically arrested at the time of fingerprinting and was the fingerprinting process valid? Is fingerprinting at a traffic stop (or border checkpoint) a violation of the 5th? Should the VERIFIER be used before a miranda warning? Does a miranda warning even apply for the VERIFIER?

Welcome to 2010.

You can check out the VERIFIER at the crossmatch.com website. Below is also the scan from the American Cop magazine where this article originally appeared. (March / April 2010 page 20) (click to enlarge).

American Cop Magazine March/April 2010 page 20

American Cop Magazine March/April 2010 page 20

You can also read this whole issue of americancop.com in their digital archives area on their website.