Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"Live Scan" fingerprinting

We have added new equipment and capability to our office.

Our new “Live Scan” fingerprint equipment will help us with decedent identification and with case investigation. We are the only Coroner’s Office in the state with these capabilities in-house. And being able to supplement our budget expenditure with private grant funds made it easier to bring on-board.

Instead of our previous procedure, (inking and finger printing onto “cards” and submitted via mail to the Bureau of Identification, with results in a couple of weeks) the decedent’s fingerprints are directly scanned into our computer and submitted electronically. The first day we were operational with it we had the identity of the individual back in about 30 minutes and another case the other day took 10 minutes to get the information back.

The other information we get is any criminal history and there are times when that information is valuable to us in our investigation. An individual believed to have died from an asthma attack found to have a history of drug-related charges, may test positive for drugs that contributed to their death (making it not so natural a death). A previous call to the police for suicidal ideations or actions would add evidence that their death may have been related to those previous actions. Additionally, it may allow other law-enforcement agencies to close open cases with “missing” perpetrators that turn up in our office.

The limitation to fingerprinting as a method of identification is the necessity for the individual to have been fingerprinted before and those fingerprints to be on file with the Illinois State Police and/or the FBI, otherwise there will not be a match. However, there are a growing number of non-law-enforcement related reasons for individuals to be “in the system”. Many jobs are having employees and applicants fingerprinted and submitted to the databases (and those submissions are retained). As well, certain professional license applicants are being likewise fingerprinted. All increasing the chances of a “hit” with a fingerprint check. So “Live Scan” will be a very useful technical addition to our office capabilities.

Our technical advances since I took office are really amazing. In our toxicology lab the changes have worked wonders. Next up I am waiting to hear about a grant we have applied for to add “crash data recorder” information access to our office to aid in investigating auto crash-related deaths.

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