Belfast Telegraph

Gadget allows police to check fingerprints in two minutes

By Deborah McAleese

Around 500 PSNI officers have been issued with mobile fingerprint scanners which will be able to detect crime suspects in two minutes.

The devices are being used by police response officers to carry out immediate checks on people's identities.

Little bigger than a mobile phone, the fingerprint scanners check the print against a database held on the Police National Computer.

When a match is found the officer will automatically know the individual's name, date of birth, previous convictions, alerts or outstanding warrants.

The fingerprint is not retained.

Chief Superintendent Pauline Shields said the technology will increase officers' effectiveness in front line policing.

A trial of the technology saw 40 officers across Armagh, Newry and Mourne, parts of Belfast and roads policing units using the devices. Due to their success they have now been rolled out across the province.

"Mobile ID allows a police officer to take up to two fingerprints from a person for the purpose of confirming their identification without having to bring the person to a police station," Chief Superintendent Shields said.

She added: "Once the fingerprints have been obtained from the individual, Mobile ID allows officers to search the fingerprints against the National Fingerprint Database.

"Where a match is found the officer is presented with results relating to the individual, such as name and date of birth.

"Further searches retrieve any relevant police information relating to the individual, such as previous convictions, alerts or outstanding warrants."

The fingerprint checks are carried out under Article 61 of The Police and Criminal Evidence Order (NI) 1989.

"The fingerprints are taken for identification only and will not be retained. The PSNI only store these fingerprints as long as is necessary to process a response.

"Currently this should not exceed 24 hours. The circumstances under which the fingerprints are taken are recorded for audit purposes," she explained.

Ms Shields added: "The introduction of Mobile Identification is part of the PSNI's ongoing commitment to use technology to increase officers' effectiveness in front line policing."

It is thought the technology could save an average of 60 minutes per case, as it eliminates the need to bring suspects back to a police station for identification.


Mobile fingerprinting equipment is now being used by PSNI officers across Northern Ireland to check identity and wanted status of crime suspects within minutes. The technology can also be used to quickly identify unconscious victims or fatalities at accident scenes. These devices, which are little more than the size of a mobile phone, are used to carry out checks on national databases.

Belfast Telegraph