SA Police roll out Android-powered fingerprint scanners

State government changing laws to allow police to compel people to give up their fingerprints

Following the conclusion of a trial of 20 mobile fingerprint scanners in South Australia, the devices are being rolled out to police in the state.

The scanners connect via Bluetooth to an Android smartphone. A captured fingerprint is queried against the national Crimtrac database's National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS). If the print matches, details of the record can be displayed on the smartphone.

These details can include an image, the address of the person being fingerprinted, whether they are the subject of outstanding warrants or bail conditions, and additional notes such as if they have "possibly violent tendencies."

One hundred and fifty of the scanners are being rolled out to South Australian police. The trial finished in November and the rollout began in early December and is expected to conclude within a month.

The system was designed and implemented by NEC Australia. The company developed a secure gateway for querying NAFIS. No data is stored on the device.

"During the recent trial, police officers have reported a number of examples where they were able to make arrests on the spot thanks to the mobile scanners," South Australia's police minister, John Rau, said in a statement.

Rau said the state government will introduce laws that will compel a person to allow themselves to be fingerprinted "if they are reasonably suspected of having committed an offence".

Earlier this week South Australian Police took delivery of two aerial drones that can be remotely piloted to capture video of crisis situations. The force is currently trialling 350 Acer Iconia tablets to reduce paperwork, the police minister said.

The tablet trial, at the Elizabeth Street police station in Adelaide, will cost $1.6 million.

"Tablet devices have changed the way many of us work and now SAPOL are also set to reap the benefits of this technology," Rau said.

"By allowing officers to directly enter information into the central system, rather than writing information down and transferring it — these devices mean that police will do more of what they do best; keeping our community safe."

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