KINGSTON, Jamaica: The government has signed a contract worth close to US$1 million to provide police with improved technology that will help them solve crimes using fingerprint identification.
Minister of National Security, Senator Dwight Nelson, signed a contract last week with Sagem SA of France for a US$990,000 upgrade of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Automated Palm and Fingerprint Identification System (APFIS).
The APFIS was put into operation in October 2006, and Nelson said the upgrade “will greatly improve the capability of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to use fingerprint identification technology in solving crimes in Jamaica”.
Nelson said the most important feature of the upgraded APFIS would be a much larger fingerprint database for the JCF. The system is also expected to make it easier to provide police records on individuals.
Additional equipment is also to be acquired and deployed strategically within the JCF, the Department of Correctional Services and at the Firearm Licensing Authority.
“There is no doubt that there will be cost benefits associated with this upgrade,” Nelson said. “There might even exist the possibility for the extension of the capabilities of this system in other areas presently under consideration.”
Nelson said that, as part of the upgrading of the JCF’s fingerprint identification system, his ministry was looking at maintaining separate databases for the fingerprints of criminals and non-criminals.
Nelson said, however, that storing the fingerprints of someone who has not committed an offence could raise legal questions.
“The person could challenge your retaining his or her fingerprint and he or she has not committed an offence, and the law does not prescribe for your retaining the fingerprint of someone who has not committed an offence,” Nelson said.
The government is therefore looking to establish a legal framework under which such fingerprints could be retained.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green noted that there are currently almost 300,000 fingerprints on the system and there are over 400 cases linked to some of these fingerprints.