Las Vegas Sun

July 25, 2014

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Police mug shots are going digital

The Clark County jail will give up film in favor of digital cameras for mug shots, a move that will save Metro Police money and save time for detectives conducting investigations.

The system, expected to be in place in June, will allow digital photographs to be sent directly to a database that will be accessible to detectives and other Metro officials. The digital system will also be used for work cards, said Deputy Chief Richard McKee, head of the department's technical services division.

Currently, when detectives identify a suspect they have to gather pictures for a photo lineup, which translates into at least a 30-minute process of reviewing photo files.

"We would use it almost on a daily basis," Lt. John Alamshaw of Metro's robbery unit said of the new system. "We have some cases where one guy is a suspect in 15 robberies. We might do 15 lineups in a case like that."

The database can construct a lineup card of jail mug shots nearly instantly after physical features of the suspect have been entered, McKee said.

The system, designed and installed by San Diego-based Imageware, carries a cost of about $660,000 to set up the software and will one day unite the picture with a digital fingerprint system.

In the first eight months of this fiscal year Metro has spent $35,000 on film for the jail and work cards. Film will still be used for crime scene photographs used for evidence, as issues remain regarding the possible manipulation of digital pictures, McKee said.

Metro has already converted all booking photos of people processed after 1986. McKee said he talked with Metro's photo lab, and there are few if any requests for photos a year after they are taken. Metro will keep old negatives.

Once the system is working the photos can be accessed from any of the police computers, said Jim Miller, Imageware chairman and CEO.

The system -- created by Imageware in 1999 -- is being used by New York City police, San Antonio police and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office, Miller said.

McKee said only those who need to pull up the mug shots -- such as detectives -- will have a security code to access the database.

Imageware also provides technical support 24 hours a day.

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