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Kansas Bureau of Investigation upgrades fingerprint identification system to utilize facial images

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Posted at 6:20 PM, Jul 09, 2024

KSHB 41 reporter Lily O’Shea Becker covers Cass, Miami, Franklin and Douglas counties with an emphasis on Lawrence. If you have a question about your community or a story idea, send Lily a tip at lilyoshea.becker@kshb.com.

Historically, law enforcement has used fingerprints to solve crimes, but with a recent upgrade to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's (KBI) fingerprint system, agencies across the state can now use facial images to identify suspects.

In 2020, the Kansas legislature approved $6.89 million in funding to replace the state's finger and palm print database.

On May 1, the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) went into effect for KBI, which will maintain the information, catalog it and make it available to the 400-plus law enforcement agencies across the state

“Biometrics includes fingerprints but it also includes other things like photographs and things like iris scans," KBI Director Tony Mattivi said.

Mattivi says Kansas law enforcement is typically technologically behind.

"We now have a system that puts us a step or two ahead," he said.

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Traditional ink process.

The traditional ink process for fingerprints was updated to live scans in 1999, which is available in about half (228) of law enforcement agencies across Kansas.

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Live scan process

"ABIS will be able to run it (facial images) against driver’s license photos, book-in photos, and see if they can identify now both the fingerprint and the facial image," Mattivi said. "So, it’s just giving more tools to law enforcement to help them solve crimes.”

Mattivi said ABIS will help detectives and agents solve more crimes. It holds over 2 million fingerprint and 596,000 palm print records, according to a KBI press release.

It also "interacts and exchanges" records with the FBI's Next Generation Identification system.

Law enforcement will be able to use surveillance footage and residential doorbell cameras to identify suspects.

“Whether it’s someone breaking into your house, or coming onto your porch to grab a package, right, that doorbell camera might grab an image of that person," Mattivi said.

With ABIS, KBI is prepared for when iris scanning of the eye will become available to law enforcement.

“You’ve seen it in a science-fiction movie, right, where you walk up to a reader and they use your iris scan," Mattivi said. "An iris scan is more like DNA than it is like a fingerprint.”