KBI warns fingerprint database in danger of failing

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A database of finger and palm prints used by law enforcement and child welfare workers is in danger of failing and needs to be replaced, a Kansas Bureau of Investigation official told lawmakers.

The system contains more than 2 million finger and palm prints and if it stops working police wouldn’t be able to check prints of criminal suspects and child welfare workers couldn’t do background checks on potential foster parents, The Kansas City Star reported .

“If the system is not replaced, there is a significant risk that it will fail,” KBI spokesman Joe Mandala told a legislative committee this past week. “A failure of this system would cripple criminal justice and public safety operations across the state, most directly at local law enforcement agencies.”

The database is also used for people applying for visas, employees in adult care homes, individuals involved in child placement and to identify people who have died. The Kansas system handles about 120,000 criminal requests and 60,000 non-criminal requests a year, Mandala said.

Kansas is the last state in the country using the database, called the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or AFIS. It has been in place since 2007 and the company that made it, MorphoTrack, will stop providing maintenance by 2025, the KBI said.

Lawmakers on the committee complained that they had not been sufficiently warned about the urgency of replacing the system, which would cost about $8 million.

Mandala responded that the KBI submitted a replacement plan in 2017 to state information technology officials and included information about the need to replace the system for the past three years in a briefing book for lawmakers. He said the agency also sought a budget increase to pay for the project, but the governor’s office didn’t include the money in its spending recommendations.

“You guys didn’t think to raise the flag any higher when you weren’t getting any results since this is 2019?” Sen. Caryn Tyson, a Parker Republican, asked Mandala.

The KBI is conducting a feasibility study that is required before a replacement project can proceed.

The study was ongoing when the budget was being developed last year, said Lauren Fitzgerald, a spokeswoman for Gov. Laura Kelly.

“Governor Kelly is committed to keeping our communities safe and ensuring that law enforcement has the tools necessary to do their jobs. We look forward to working with the KBI and the legislature to determine the next steps for replacing the aging AFIS system,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.

The KBI hopes to request proposals to replace the system this year. Replacement will take two years, Mandala said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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