Law-enforcement technologyPortable device helps officers ID uncooperative suspects

Published 10 January 2011

A portable fingerprint scanner helps police in a Florida town to identify people who refuse to identify themselves; the portable device searches the database of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which has more than 5.5 million criminal records; it also crosschecks a FBI database of wanted persons, sex offender registry and known or suspected terrorists

The driver tried to flee, and one of the men in the car with the stolen license plate was lying about his name Friday afternoon. Volusia County, Florida, sheriff’s deputy Bobby Woell could tell and he had a device that was about to confirm the man’s true identity.

He kept giving us fake names. I told him, ‘Hey, I have my fingerprint scanner. I’m more than happy to scan your fingers for you,’” Woell said.

It took less than a minute for Woell to find out why the suspect was being deceitful as they stood off State Road A1A in Daytona Beach Shores. The portable fingerprint scanner and software system revealed that the man — already in handcuffs — was wanted in Jacksonville for burglary and by the U.S. military for desertion.

When an officer’s interview skills can only go so far to determine whether a person is lying, the high-tech tool digitally reads fingerprints and compares them to those stored in a national crime database to find out the person’s identity. About 100 Volusia County sheriff’s deputies have been using the RapidID Edge device for ten months, and soon a handful of DeLand police officers will have the technology on hand. Daytona Beach police officers also use the devices.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that in DeLand, commissioners approved the $8,000 purchase of four fingerprint scanners and software that will be delivered in several weeks.

Deputy Chief Bill Ridgway said a scanner will be available twenty-four hours a day for every shift. It only identifies people that already have criminal records.

It is common for people to give officers fictitious names, Ridgway said. Now officers can expedite the ID process.

Typically if they’re lying to you about their name, there’s a reason they’re lying to you — usually an outstanding warrant or other issues they’ve had in the past,” Ridgway said. “So by just taking that simple latent print onto the machine at the time, you can get positive ID and see if this person is wanted for any other crimes.”

Being able to correctly identify the people deputies come in contact with is important for safety, said Priscilla Ress, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office.

It is unknown how often the scanners identify uncooperative subjects, but Ress said they are used regularly.
Deputies also help other agencies when needed.


In October a deputy with a scanner assisted DeLand police in identifying a man who had escaped from a work release program, according to a police report. The fugitive was spotted walking on Clara Avenue and lied about his name.

On Halloween night, deputy Woell also spotted and stopped a vehicle with a broken brake light that fit the description of a getaway car involved in an armed robbery in Daytona Beach Shores.

Sergio Armando Brito was in the back seat. He lied about his name and Social Security number, police said. Moments earlier, he had beaten and tried to stab a man, according to police reports.

Already on probation for felony battery, Brito, 40, was arrested for lying to an officer and soon was linked to the armed robbery. He was convicted of providing a false ID, sentenced to 11 days in jail and is going to trial next month in another incident.

Once the print is scanned, police receive basic data about the person, including his or her rapsheet and warrant information in as little as 20 to 40 seconds, said Rick Johnson, vice president of DataWorks, which sold the devices to the Sheriff’s Office and DeLand police.

The scanners do not save the prints of people without existing records, Johnson told the News-Journal in an e-mail.

The system searches the database of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which has more than 5.5 million criminal records. It also crosschecks a FBI database of wanted persons, sex offender registry and known or suspected terrorists.

It is a great tool, said Woell, who often assists other police agencies that don’t have the technology yet. At the time he found Brito on Halloween, Woell said he wasn’t sure he had the right guy.

Once his fingerprint came back with a hit, then we knew there was something more to what he was telling us,” Woell said.

Ress, sheriff’s spokeswoman, said a subject may decline to have prints scanned, but it depends on the circumstances. If an individual is stopped for probable cause, or with responsible cause, he or she must reveal their identity to law enforcement and has no legal right to refuse.

The scan policy will be similar in DeLand, Ridgway said.