Booking Station



The days of the ten print fingerprint card are almost over. No longer will police officers have to smear ink on a suspect’s fingertips  to transfer his prints to a paper card. Many departments have switched to computerized booking stations that have the capability of capturing prints of all types – rolled, flat, and palm – into its database. The machines are also designed to snap those oh-so-attractive booking photos made popular by recent celebrity arrestees.


The top picture above (No, not Paris and her gang, although I’m sure her prints were taken on a machine similar to this one) is of a booking station called LiveScan, sold by Cogent Systems (There are several other manufacturers out there who make similar systems. This is just the equipment with which I’m most familiar). LiveScan units come factory-ready to connect to the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), the FBI’s database – the largest collection of fingerprints in the world – over forty-seven million.

A LiveScan booking station stands nearly six-feet tall and weighs over two-hundred fifty pounds. It’s very durable, built to withstand the abuse of combative criminals and staggering drunks. The units are even equipped with their own portable cooling systems.

Image quality is very important when attempting match a suspect’s fingerprints to that of a print retrieved from the scene of a crime. Cogent’s resolution and quality picks up the finest detail of print ridges. In fact, the resolution meets all FBI standards.


Many departments across the U.S. simply don’t have the funds to purchase equipment like the LiveScan. Those agencies still rely on the messy ten print card system where officers roll a supect’s fingers across an ink pad and then transfer his prints to a pre-printed card. A large, one-gallon jug of orange-scented hand cleaner sits at ready to clean the stained hands of suspects and officers alike. The completed card is then mailed to the FBI in Clarksburg, West Virginia where technicians enter the information into the AFIS system.

Ten Print Card


Cogent has developed a mobile remote fingerprint scanner that easily configures with their existing LiveScan equipment using Bluetooth technology. Officers in the field can submit a suspect’s fingerprint directly to the AFIS system and receive the results of the search in minutes. This handy little pocket-size device is approximately four-and-a-half inches tall, one-and-a-half inches wide, and less than an inch thick, and weighs less three ounces.


(Photo from Cogent Systems)

By the way, most police officers refer to the booking procedure as “processing.” “Go process your prisoner.” Not, “Book ’em”

15 replies
  1. Joyce Tremel
    Joyce Tremel says:

    Lee asked, “Have you ever been forced, by the court, to turn over records/files for an open case?”

    Not really. I have had attorneys subpoena reports from domestic disputes though. The reason we don’t release them to the parties involved is that sometimes one of the parties will change the record to make themselves look better, or they’ll argue that they never said that, or such and such never happened. If we give it directly to the lawyer there’s no dispute. As a matter of fact, there was a police chief from a neighboring jurisdiction who was going through a nasty divorce and was fired because he changed his own domestic report! Not a smart thing to do.

  2. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    True, Joyce. I don’t know of any police department that releases their active case records without a court order. Citizens must go to the courts to retrieve information about a case. Still, they probably won’t have much luck if it’s an on-going case. Arrest reports are different. That is public information. You see it detailed in newspapers and on TV news along with people’s mug shots.

    I know one police department that places a copy of their daily arrest reports in the lobby for all to see.

    Have you ever been forced, by the court, to turn over records/files for an open case?

  3. pabrown
    pabrown says:

    Every time I come to this site, I learn something new. This is so cool. I love to incorporate the latest technology in my books. I’ll definitely have to point others to this great site

  4. Joyce Tremel
    Joyce Tremel says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how stupid drug suspects are!

    In response to Kim’s question about information being available after an arrest–it depends. I believe info is available from the courts, but probably not from the police department. Here in Shaler Township, PA, we don’t release any reports involving an arrest until after the case is adjudicated. Some states are more open as far as records are concerned. And we never release reports involving domestic or child custody issues without a court order or a subpoena.

  5. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Speaking of fingerprints. This is from channel 5 in Boston:

    BOSTON — A drug suspect either burned or chewed off his fingerprints to stop police from identifying him, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said.

    The man was arrested late Thursday and accused of being part of a major drug ring. He had no prints on the pads of his fingers with which police could immediately identify him, though they said they believe his name is either Rafael L. Cesareo, 31, or Jonathan Caez, 31.

    Jake Wark, a spokesman for the district attorney, said the man’s booking photo matched two names at the Registry of Motor Vehicles Facial Recognition Unit.

    This sort of self-mutilation is fortunately rare, but even that couldn’t prevent us from apprehending and prosecuting him,” the district attorney said in a statement.

    Investigators plan to take prints of the man’s entire fingers and palms Tuesday, to see if they’re on file. They may eventually try DNA testing.

    Wark said he was confident the suspect eventually would be identified.

    The man was arraigned on various drug charges Friday and was ordered held without bail.

  6. l.c.mccabe
    l.c.mccabe says:


    That mug shot of Nick Nolte is just soooo precious.

    You could have fun for days with the celebrity and/or politico mug shots.

    Tom “The Hammer” DeLay’s is one of my personal favorites.


  7. Kim Cristofoli
    Kim Cristofoli says:

    Hi Lee,

    Once a person is “processed”, is this information openly available to the public?

    FYI, I appreciate your posting these Blogs – they’re quite helpful. I posted a thread about your Blog on Backspace, (, so you might be seeing a few of those members lurking here and asking questions.

  8. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Hi Rhonda. You’re so welcome. I hope we all can learn something here. Who knows, maybe we’ll even have a little fun.

    There’s nothing wrong with printing the old fashioned way. The prints are very accurate. It just takes longer to get a match.

    In fact, before AFIS came along I can remember sending prints to the FBI hoping to get a match and then waiting…waiting…waiting… Finally, a case went to court (no prints, the defendant was convicted based on other evidence,) the defendant went to jail, and eventually was released and back into the community. Well, lo and behold, one day the U.S. mail delivered the good news – a match for the prints of a person who’d already served his time. A little late.

    Now, officers can expect rapid results. In some cases, even faster than H&R Block’s Rapid Refund system.

  9. Rhonda Lane
    Rhonda Lane says:

    A few years ago, I toured my hometown PD’s brand new HQ. They had a high-tech dispatch center, a state-of-the-art evidence management system that even documented the chain-of-evidence along the way, mini video cameras in the interview rooms — and ten cards in the processing area.

    I suppose ya gotta cut costs somewhere, but preferably not in crucial areas, like ones that can compromise convictions. Documenting chain of evidence and interviews offers little defense counsel wiggle room. Maybe fingerprint collection and storage, not so much?

    So, is that the case? Fingerprints are fingerprints, no matter how they’re collected. But the other stuff can be challenged in court easier?

    BTW, thanks again So Very Much, Lee, for this informative and friendly blog.

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