Why are states moving to exclusive contracts with one or two fingerprinting service providers? I learned today that there are two primary reasons: (1) Fingerprint image quality does not meet quality standards and (2) Candidates require additional services (background screening) that push the onus of service onto the state. A third reason, is that the FBI has been trying to move completely away from fingerprint cards for at least 5 years due to receiving poor fingerprint image quality images via inked cards. Actually, all law enforcement agencies were supposed to move to electronic submission by 2013, but still they provide fingerprint cards in a decreasing number of states. Colorado will stop accepting fingerprint cards on Oct. 31st.
A nasty secret is that some law enforcement agencies actually spent hard earned grant money to buy livescan equipment only to be told that they can no longer provide fingerprinting services because the state has given an exclusive contract to companies like Idemia (IdentiGo). Yep, that has happened in my state recently. How does a small community recuperate losses on a pre-order for equipment that they won't be able to use when they receive their equipment? That is a sour pill for any agency to accept.
States need to stop this practice of exclusivity. It is bad for business - both for law enforcement agencies that can benefit from the additional revenue stream and for private business owners who may have been providing fingerprinting services for decades. States that offer exclusivity should learn from Florida, California and other states that have found a balance to allow both private business and law enforcement agencies provide convenient and competitively priced fingerprinting services to community members. These states that do this allow private businesses to submit fingerprint records electronically. Fingerprinting services providers also need to make absolutely certain that they are following best practices if they want to keep providing fingerprinting services.
As a livescan fingerprinting trainer, I'm still surprised by some of the bad quality prints that are submitted electronically. It is no wonder that states are moving to these exclusive contracts. There is no transfer of knowledge once someone is trained at a law enforcement agency or private agency who decides to leave. There is certainly a demand for followup training and certification for anyone who is tasked to provide fingerprinting services.
Much more needs to be done to preserve private practice and the services provided by law enforcement to serve local community members and businesses.
Florida and California support local law enforcement and private business owners, while states that give an exclusive contract to a French-owned portfolio of companies kill small business and rob dollars from local law enforcement! This sounds anti-American don't you think? There must be a partnership between government and local businesses/law enforcement agencies to figure out a way to make this process work for all. This is in the interest of people who need to be fingerprinted. I have heard complaint after complaint of the problems with forcing people to go to host locations like Idemia and Fieldprint - mainly it is wait times and problems with appointments. It robs employers of employee productive time.
I'll write more about this issue in subsequent blogs. In closing, I'd like to address the fingerprint quality issue. If your organization is experiencing fingerprint rejections and you need help, please contact us at email@example.com. If you are considering providing fingerprinting services and need to know if you can do that in your state, contact us. We can help you with that too.