Fingerprinting: Before Live Scan and AFIS



Fingerprinting the old-fashioned way. Officers grasp a suspects finger, apply ink from a pad, and then roll the finger (one at a time) from side-to-side on pre-printed fingerprint cards.

Fingerprinting station – ink pad, cardholder, and paper towels

Orange-scented hand cleaner – one of the most important tools used in fingerprinting.  Without the cleaner, ink is tough to remove from skin.

Criminal Ten-print card (printed in red ink for easy ID)

Child fingerprint card – printed in blue ink for easy ID

Elimination card

*Not to be entered into AFIS/IAFIS. Used for eliminating prints (homeowner, victim, family members, clumsy police chief who refuses to wait outside, mayor, etc.) found at crime scenes

Comparing prints by hand and eye

Charles Manson’s fingerprint card is on the auction block.  The seller expects to receive $1,500 – $3,000.

* Many agencies still fingerprint by hand (no Live Scan terminals) due to budget constraints. They simply can’t afford to purchase Live Scan, or similar equipment.

* To the person (Edwin?) who sent me an email last night requesting information regarding police procedure – Please email again. I accidentally deleted your message.

4 replies
  1. Joyce Tremel
    Joyce Tremel says:

    We still used the old-fashioned method where I used to work. The last couple of years I worked there, there was a big increase in the number of people who needed to be fingerprinted–anyone who applied for a federal job, teachers, hospital employees; anyone adopting a child or changing their name; people applying for visas to work overseas, etc. It got so busy that the detective who did the printing trained a couple of us to do them so he could actually get his real work done.

  2. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Carla – It’s simple. You lock them up and don’t let them leave until they’ve been processed. Normally, after a few hours in a cell and some sobering up time, they see things your way. There are other methods if that one doesn’t work. They involve lots of manpower.

    Terry – High tech isn’t always the best, huh?

  3. Carla F
    Carla F says:

    Here’s a question I’ve always wanted to ask. How did/does anyone get an unruly/drunk/really PO’d criminal to stand still for fingerprinting? I had my kids fingerprinted and they were ready to run after the first print. (It didn’t help that someone in the next tent was giving away helium balloons.) Getting a 7 year old to stand still is one thing, getting a full grown (and possibly large and unwilling) adult must be something entirely different. I’m assuming fingerprints aren’t taken at gunpoint.

  4. Terry
    Terry says:

    I was printed using Live Scan as part of the requirement for volunteering via the Civilian Police Academy. It took nearly twenty minutes for the tech to get images the computer would accept. Granted, she was new, but at the time, I would have preferred the ink method — we’d have been done, and a little cleanup would have been fine with me. My prints are never going to leave the Sheriff’s Office system, so it seemed a lot of effort. But I’m sure they made certain I wasn’t a bad guy before they’d let me volunteer (which is mostly providing food at DUI checkpoints or the SWAT Roundup they hold here in town every year.)

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