On Tuesday, March 13, deputies and reserve deputies gathered at the jail to learn to use the Safran Morpho Trak, an all-in-one, computerized system to book a criminal suspect.
"Once someone is booked, this system will send the information directly to the Arkansas State Police in Little Rock," Mark Dague explained, as he demonstrated how to operate the machine. "The information it receives is checked in the state's database to match against past arrests, and to see if the suspect's prints have been matched in connection with unsolved crimes."
When someone is arrested, the Morpho Trak will take their mug shot using a mounted digital camera. The deputy or jail employee will input information about the arrestee, including name and address, physical characteristics and the charges being filed. Perhaps most importantly, it will obtain high quality digital fingerprints -- and let the operator know if they are not good enough.
Dague showed how easy the system is to use by rolling his fingerprints, and taking impressions of his hands by placing them on a green lighted tablet. As the prints are received and processed, they appear on a monitor above the tablet.
"That one is a 'C' (grade)," Dague said, after putting a print into the system. "My hand might be sweaty or something like that, so I'll delete it and do it again until I get at least a 'B'."
The new system carries a price tag of about $40,000, but it was supplied to the Fulton County Sheriff's Department by the Arkansas State Police.
"From my years of working for the state police, I know what kind of resources they have to help local law enforcement," Sheriff Buck Foley told The News. "I've been encouraging them to help us modernize our operations."
Besides the Morpho Trak System, the sheriff said the state police are also supplying his department with five radar units to be used to monitor for speeding, and eight "stop sticks" which are used to help stop vehicles during police chases.
The state police also recently supplied the electronic fingerprint system to the Izard County Sheriff's Department.
According to Dague, the Morpho Trak technology has been on the market for about 10 years, but is continually being upgraded. He said the system the local sheriff's department received is the latest, "up-to- date model."
It is definitely high tech compared to the fingerprint table in the jail lobby. That system, which has been used for decades, involves dipping a suspect's finger tips and palms into an ink-filled pad and rolling the tips on to a paper card to capture the prints.
After watching to learn the basics of the new system, Jail Administrator Joann Cunningham paired up with jailer Arlis Linderman to practice using the new ink-free electronic system.
After taking Linderman's mug shot and inputing his information, Cunningham learned the ins and outs of getting high quality fingerprints, thanks to the ability to delete and start over if the first try was not satisfactory.
"I love it. It's so easy to use," Cunningham said. "I never was good at getting prints and now you don't have to get ink everywhere, everytime you make some prints."
Besides being used for booking new inmates, the electronic system will be used to photograph and obtain information from teachers, gun permit applicants and others who are required to be fingerprinted or photographed for non-criminal purposes.
The machine also comes with a printer system to make hard copies of photos, information and prints.
March Quorum Court
At the March 12 Quorum Court meeting, Sheriff Foley received approval to complete purchases for several other department upgrades.
Justices of the Peace approved Foley's request to purchase a 2007 Dodge Durango vehicle for use as a patrol car. Foley will use money from both his car and search and rescue funds for the $12,500 purchase.
The justices also authorized to pay for $389 in supplies the sheriff purchased with the remainder of a $3,5000 grant his department had received some time ago.
Foley also indicated he had completed the purchase of AWIN two-way radios for deputies, and tires for department vehicles, using an $18,000 previously approved grant.
In other business, Quorum Court:
* approved the allocation of $205,819 to pay off a $200,000 loan from White River Planning and Development. The loan was taken out in April to allow repair work to get under way after a storm. It is being paid back with a recent $225,000 payment received from FEMA.
* passed a resolution supporting the Morriston Fire Department's application for a grant to buy new fire hose and turn out gear
* accepted a $45,000 grant from the Office of Emergency Management to purchase a new dispatch console
* passed a resolution in support of the Regional Maintenance program offered by the North Central Unit prison at Calico Rock. Inmates who participate in the Regional Maintenance program perform a variety of community clean up and maintenance programs for area towns and cities. According to Judge Charles Willett, the resolution thanks the prison for the good works regional maintenance has done in Fulton County, and expresses support for creation of another maintenance team, an idea suggested by another community.
The next regular meeting of the Fulton County Quorum Court is scheduled for April 9 at 7 p.m. at the courthouse. The public is invited to attend.