POLICE will roll out 150 mobile fingerprint scanners that can check a persons identity and criminal history within a minute.However, they will not be able to force anyone to submit to a fingerprint check until new laws are passed.
Police Minister John Rau said the devices had been trialled successfully and the State Government, if re-elected next month, would introduce laws making it compulsory to submit to a fingerprint test if asked by a police officer.
The rollout of 150 devices will cost about $2.6 million plus about $800,000 for the necessary software. The State Government promised the scanners at the 2010 election and allocated $2.6 million for 150 devices in 2012.
Mr van Holst Pellekaan said the fingerprint scanners could not be used to their full potential under the current law.
SA Police chief inspector Scott Allison said a trial of voluntary scans by 10 patrols on Hindley St and 20 patrols in the Transit Branch had yielded about a dozen hits and led to several arrests.
A scan allows officers to verify a person’s identity and check their criminal history.
During a test, a person places their finger or thumb on an impression pad on a palm-size scanning device.
Another device displays a scan of the fingerprint and whether it is recognised in an existing database of prints.
The scans are not recorded or added to the database.
A “hit” or “no hit” result is returned in about a minute.
If a hit is returned, the scanner will display a photograph of the person and a list of their current or prior offences.
SA is the second state, after NSW, to introduce the technology.
“We will be introducing laws to expand the powers for police to more effectively use these scanners to fight crime,” Mr Rau said.
However, that cannot happen until at least May, when Parliament is expected to resume post-election.
Under current legislation, unless someone consents, police can obtain someone’s fingerprints only once they are charged.
The Law Society of SA has raised concerns that broadening the legislation could violate individual rights, particularly if a person has not been charged with an offence.
Mr Rau also announced $1.6 million to supply Elizabeth police station officers with 350 tablet computers to use on the road.
Mr Rau said the tablets would enable officers to enter information directly into a central system, rather than writing it down and entering it electronically later.