Scanner cuts time to process fingerprints electronically

The time needed for background checks is cut from weeks to days.
Sunday, July 3, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:23 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Missouri businesses and state agencies seeking background information on potential employees will soon have a much shorter time to wait.

Gov. Matt Blunt announced Tuesday a new partnership between the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Identix Identification Services will enable Missouri Applicant Processing Services to process fingerprint information electronically. The program, which begins July 20, is expected to reduce the time to conduct background checks from six to eight weeks to only five days.

June Baker, assistant director of the Criminal Records and Identification Division of the Missouri Highway Patrol, said the new service is necessary because of a rising demand for background information.

Baker said the Missouri state government does not require background checks for any departments, but it does recommend them for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education,prospective police officers and in social services including foster care, child care, work with the elderly and with the disabled.

An independent agency can use the service, and results will be submitted to the state. Then the results will be forwarded to the independent agency.

The contract with Identix did not cost the state any money, Baker said. She said Identix plans to recoup their expenses through a fee charged for the service. It costs a private company $26.95 per background check and $50.95 if an FBI background check is included.

Baker said the contract will also save the highway patrol a great amount of time because it will replace not only the old method of fingerprint background checks, but also some name searches that businesses would have conducted to save time. Baker said the department conducted about 320,000 fingerprint background checks and 700,000 name searches last year. In May, they completed about 27,000 fingerprint checks.

“There are several steps to the old process,” Baker said. “Mailed in fingerprint cards must be opened, entered or scanned into the computer, verified, transmitted to the Criminal Records and Identification Division, and sometimes on to the FBI.”

With the new process, all of this is done electronically.

Chuck Archer, vice president of Identix and former assistant director of the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division, said the speed of the process is just one of many ways in which electronic fingerprint scans are superior to the ink prints.

“Normally, with the old ink process, three sets of fingerprints would be taken,” Archer said. “The best one would be kept by local police, the state government would take the best out of the two it received, and then the worst would be sent on to the FBI. There was a rejection rate of around 30 percent, in which the fingerprints were not identifiable.”

The Identix machine, which flashes a green light when the machine believes it has received a proper scan, provides an almost 100 percent probability that the prints will be acceptable, Archer said.

When the machines are delivered to a police station or applicant screening facility, Identix technicians provide a one-day training session to someone at the facility who will then train others, although Archer said that may not be necessary.

“They’re easy enough to use that a person could probably walk up and do it themselves as long as they put enough pressure down on the surface,” Archer said.

Employees at the scanning facilities usually put pressure on a person’s hands.

There will be more than 25 scanning locations in Missouri with one in Columbia that will be open two days per week.

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