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Santa Monica Police Seek $300,000 for Fingerprint Program

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

September 8, 2015 -- The days when fingerprinting suspects required messy ink and paper impressions of all four fingers and two thumbs are long gone.

Nowadays, police departments across the state rely on Live Scan, the California Department of Justice's (DOJ) national electronic fingerprint database, which uses digital technology to scan millions of prints annually and sends “RAP sheets” on the criminal histories of suspects to requesting agencies within hours, instead of days or weeks as it did only a few decades ago.

Santa Monica Police Department is among more than 45,000 police agencies that daily use Live Scan when “booking” suspects into custody and doing employee criminal background checks, but it's not free.

The DOJ bills the City monthly for the service, costing Santa Monica on average more than  $55,800 a year over the past three years, said a staff report recommending the City fund Live Scan services for the next five years for an amount not to exceed $300,000, or not more than $60,000 a year.

The recommendation is part of a list of consent calendar expenditures up for approval on the City Council's agenda for Wednesday night's meeting. Typically, consent calendar items are considered routine City business and are approved all at once in a single vote of the council.

In recommending continued funding for Live Scan, staff noted the City recoups some of the costs through fees charged by the Santa Monica Police Department for private background checks, including a “rolling” fee of $36.23, plus a processing fee of $32. If an FBI check in required, the SMPD adds an additional $17 fee, staff said.

Long ago, all fingerprints were required using a roller to spread lots of ink, and paper, but with Live Scan, a person being fingerprinted simply places their fingers on a glass, which electronically captures an image of their prints for comparison against DOJ criminal records.

The system annually processes approximately 2 million background checks in California and 1.2 million federal background checks, according to the DOJ's website.

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