Cass County Sheriff’s Office joins other metro agencies using mobile fingerprint scanners

CASS COUNTY, Mo. – There’s a new crime fighting tool in Cass County, and it can fit in the palm of a deputy’s hand.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office is now using mobile fingerprint scanners. The device is about the size of a cellphone and can identify someone in a matter of minutes.

“This is just the natural evolution,” Cass County Sheriff Jeff Weber said. “It’s a way for us to be more efficient at what we do.”

The agency started testing the devices about a month ago and said it helps deputies know if someone is lying about their real identity.

“There are a great deal of people who commit crimes that don’t like to either identify themselves or give false information,” Weber said.

Here’s how it works: The device will scan your left and right index fingers. From there the deputy will run it through a criminal database. If someone has ever been arrested and fingerprinted, the computer will reveal the person’s name, date of birth and picture. If the person has never been arrested, nothing will show in the system.

“We don’t drive down the streets and see you walking and make contact and ask to take your fingerprint,” Weber said.

The sheriff said a deputy must have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop someone.

“The courts have said if you refuse to provide identification, we can detain you as long as it’s necessary to prove who you are,” Weber explained.

The sheriff’s office might also use the scanners, which cost about $1,500 each, if a person is unable to speak for themselves.

“There was situation where an individual was shot in Belton, and he was incapacitate and could not speak, and they could not identify who he was,” Weber said. “A deputy was able to walk into the hospital and scan his finger right and identify who that shooting victim was.”

Cpl. Zach Weber is one of two deputies using the devices in the field. He called it a “great tool” because he can use it on the side of the road and get results in under a minute.

“Before I would have to take them to jail, which could take up to 30 minutes to get down here, fingerprint them and then wait up to an hour plus to get back the results of who they are,” Weber said. “So it cuts down time a lot.”

Weber said the scanners do not store peoples’ information and wanted to assure the public that their Fourth Amendment rights, which protect from unreasonable searches or seizures, will not be violated.

“That process has not changed,” he said. “It’s just now more convenient.”

Weber said it’s the agency's goal to have the devices in all patrol cars.

FOX4 reached out to more than a dozen law enforcement agencies across the metro to find out if they used similar technology. Kansas City Police Department, Blue Springs Police Department and the Missouri Highway Patrol confirmed they have mobile fingerprint scanners.