JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri State Highway Patrol is using some of its mobile fingerprint scanners to identify suspicious people and help in death investigations, although the devices are not being used in routine traffic stops, a patrol spokesman said.
Capt. Tim Hull told The Columbia Daily Tribune that the 27 devices are used "when there is reasonable suspicion that the person to be printed has committed, or is about to commit, a criminal act."
He said the fingerprints obtained by the scanners are not retained in patrol files. The patrol owns 16 of the devices and is using 11 more on loan from a vendor, but the patrol does not intend to provide the devices to every trooper, Hull said.
The patrol did not publicly announce that troopers would be using the devices but the vendor, MorphoTrak, announced it last month.
Hull said in an email to the Tribune that the devices could also be used in arrests or in situations where there is a dead or incapacitated person with no identifying paperwork. He said the scanners have helped identify two people with outstanding warrants who were trying to mislead troopers about their identity.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, objected to the possibility that the scanners could transmit the prints to the vendor or deposit them in databases. He said he wants the patrol to use them in cases where troopers had probable cause rather than reasonable suspicion.
The reasonable suspicion standard is a lower standard than probable cause. It allows an officer to detain and search a person and the passenger compartment for weapons if they believe them to be armed, Schaefer said.
He said the patrol's explanation settles most of the issues he has with the scanners but he would still like to talk to the patrol about the scanners.