The Rapid ID mobile fingerprint scanner gives Albany police officers a method for checking an individual's identity by scanning a fingerprint and running it through a national law enforcement dadabase. (July 5, 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. -- When a prostitute was arrested in West Albany recently, an observant Albany police officer noticed something just wasn't quite right.
Armed with a Rapid ID mobile fingerprint scanner, the officer scanned the woman's finger and discovered the she was, in fact, a he.
"These devices are just another tool the APD is using to fight crime and improve efficiency in the field," APD spokesperson Phyllis Banks says.
The devices, which resemble older-model personal digital assistants or PDAs, use a fingertip-sized scanner face to record a person's fingerprint before running it through both the Georgia Crime Information Computer database and the National Crime Information Computer database, where it compares the print against the millions of known fingerprint records in searching for a match.
An APD officer who asked that he not be identified because of previous undercover work he had done in the field, said the devices were invaluable for making sure a person is truthful about his or her identity.
"If I get a call or see something suspicious, I can walk up and ask someone what their name is, if they've ever been in trouble," he said. "But with this, if dispatch tells me he's not on file, I can scan his finger and know if he has any outstanding warrants, if he's telling me the truth about his name and all of that."
And police don't just use it on the living.
"It's been proven effective while investigating vehicular homicide cases where a person may not have had any identification on them or may not initially be identifiable," Banks said. "If we can scan a fingerprint, then we can identify them."
And while the technology is accurate, both Banks and the officer underscored the fact that it's part of a two-prong identification process.
"The Rapid ID devices are used alongside the information received from dispatch," the officer said. "If the information from dispatch doesn't match what the person is telling us, then we can use the devices to further verify the information."
Now in place for a year, APD officials say they're seeing results on the street. Officers tell The Herald that some suspects who initially lie about their name or information act more truthfully when an officer shows up with the Rapid ID's.
The city has eight of the units that can be deployed across town as needed, Banks said. They were paid for from state and federal grant funding.