Friday, May 22, 2009

The Chief explains

This from the MNPD Employee Newsletter of this afternoon from Chief Serpas regarding recent fingerprint legislation that is controversial. This is one of the few instances where the Chef and I disagree.

May 21, 2009
News from the Chief
One of the major benefits of our Advanced Records Management System (ARMS) when it comes on line this fall will be a move to paperless, electronic police reports, including most misdemeanor and traffic citations.

Officers with in-car computers will complete the citation electronically and then print out
a small paper slip, similar to a credit card receipt, containing information on how to satisfy or contest the citation. That small paper slip will then be given to the motorist. The citation will electronically travel to the Traffic Violations Bureau.

Instead of the motorist signing for the citation on an electronic signature pad, this police
department and police agencies statewide, would like to have the option of substituting a single fingerprint in place of the signature on electronic citations. It is really a matter of dollars and sense. Single digit fingerprint readers will save our department $500,000 over electronic signature pads, and should last much longer. The fingerprint would serve as an affirmation that the recipient will appear in court or otherwise satisfy the citation.

Despite skepticism caused by recent news reports, there is no hidden agenda or purpose.
The single fingerprint image from a traffic stop would not be stored in any law enforcement database. Again, it would serve to represent the motorists’ acknowledgement of the citation.

The ARMS system would allow for the single fingerprint to be instantly checked against
those persons wanted on outstanding warrants, provided the wanted person had been booked and fingerprinted for a crime previously. Similarly, it could also aid to detect identity theft if the driver had been arrested previously.

Legislation to allow law enforcement to substitute a fingerprint for a signature has passed
the Tennessee House of Representatives and will be taken up soon by the State Senate. It is important to note that, for many years, Tennessee law enforcement agencies have collected signatures AND fingerprints on misdemeanor citations. In fact, state law authorizing the use of misdemeanor citations makes the submission of a fingerprint a condition for issuance. The concept is not new. The procedure we propose is now being used very successfully by other jurisdictions across the country.

If a citizen should ask you in the coming days about our plan to move to electronic traffic citations, please feel free to use the information from this column.

Thank you all for your tremendous work that is relied upon and deeply appreciated by Nashville’s families, businesses, and visitors.
I've absolutely no doubt the Chief has no other purposes for this fingerprint. I do doubt that everyone will be as careful with it. This flows in the same stream as the medical information in the post below. What is the price of our privacy? At what point do we say...I'm willing to pay a bit more to keep MY personal information private?

More downside: that 'small slip of paper' will disappear as quickly as any credit card or deposit slip ever has. I predict the number of folks pleading "I lost my citation" is going skyrocket. Those big handwritten tickets are hard to lose. Hard to ignore.

Upside: they'll be easier to hide from the spouse or parent.

HB2220/SB2153 can be found here.

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