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Monday, January 25, 2010

Rutland Sheriff Unveils New Iris Scanner

http://rutlandherald.com/article/20100125/NEWS01/100129972/1002/NEWS01

Article published Jan 25, 2010
Long eye of the law
Sheriff unveils new iris scanner.
By Brent Curtis Staff Writer
The Rutland County Sheriff’s Department is putting the “eye” in “identification.”

The department recently became the first law enforcement agency in Vermont to acquire an iris scanner which photographs the characteristics of a person’s eyes and records them in a national database used to track everyone from children and Alzheimer’s patients to inmates and sexual offenders.

“No two are alike even in twins,” Rutland County Sheriff Steve Benard said. “After 9/11 the (National Sheriffs’ Association) found the most accurate form of identification to be the iris scan.”

With the help of a $10,000 grant from the NSA, Benard’s department was able to buy the scanner — which looks like a box with a mirrored, eye-shaped camera mounted on a tripod — and the software that allows the department to access the database.

Benard said his department won’t be ready to use the new technology for a few weeks. But once it’s ready to go, the sheriff said he hopes residents and other police agencies will see the value of the eye scanner.

While iris scans will never identify crime scene evidence in the way that fingerprints can — no one leaves their iris prints at the scene of a crime — Benard and representatives from the company helping to train him to use the scanner said prints of the eye are more accurate forms of identification and easier to use in the majority of cases.

For example, fingerprints of children can be less reliable, especially for young children whose unique fingerprints haven’t fully developed, according to Patricia Lawton, a representative with BI2 Technologies, which developed the scanner and maintains the database.

“There’s not a lot of ridge detail in children’s fingerprints,” she said. “There’s a fair amount of margin of error and some of the prints are unreadable.”

Benard, who said he plans to make the scanner available to schools and other organizations that work with children, said the NSA, which houses the database, also allows individuals to expunge their iris scans when they turn 18 years old — an option that children whose fingerprints are on record don’t receive.

For the elderly, Benard said the scanner would be an aid for people in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Say there’s someone in Poultney with Alzheimer’s who shows up in Rutland where no one has a clue who they are. All you have to do is scan their eyes for an answer,” he said.
Performing a field check would also be simpler than checking fingerprints, the sheriff said, once the department installs software in its cruisers allowing them to take the scanner on the road.

In other parts of the country, the iris scanner has been put to use to identify inmates and sexual offenders — options Benard said he’s not ready to implement yet but would like to in the future.

“It could be handy with sex offenders in particular,” Benard said. “Last year, we had two out-of-state sex offenders who moved into the county using fictitious addresses. The nice thing about iris scans is that they’re tracked nationwide so if someone is on a sex offender registry in Santa Cruz they can’t disappear by coming to Vermont.”

2 comments:

Gen-IL Homesteader said...

My eye doctor has tried to get his patients to have their retinas scanned for the past few years. I simply refuse, and this is why!!!

Confessions of an Overworked Mom said...

I totally agree with you!!

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