ICE agents collect biometric ID in the field

The Eagle Directed Identification Environment gives all 12,000 Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents the ability to collect biometric data in the field using their agency-issued Apple iPhone and a pocket-size Bluetooth-connected fingerprint scanner.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents responding to a suspicious situation can’t exactly ask persons of interest to wait while their laptop powers up and looks for an internet connection. That’s why officials created an app -- Eagle Directed Identification Environment (EDDIE) -- that gives all 12,000 ICE officers the ability to collect biometric data in the field using their agency-issued Apple iPhone and a pocket-size Bluetooth-connected fingerprint scanner.

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The app is user friendly. After it authorizes the officer using it, he or she takes a photo of the subject while the phone’s Global Positioning System collects location information. After incorporating the fingerprint scan, EDDIE searches multiple biometric databases, including Interpol’s, and returns results in less than a minute. This lets officers quickly know whether someone is a known risk.

When agents go to an arrest site, they can’t always have a laptop with them. “I might be somewhere with an operation, I might jump in somebody else’s car,” said Rodger Werner, chief of the Information Sharing and Infrastructure Management unit, which develops IT systems and identifies new technology. “I’m always going to have my iPhone and a portable scanner to put in my pocket, but carrying around a laptop increases the complexity.”

The app cost $180,000 to develop initially, while the cost of providing laptops and fingerprint scanners to every officer would have been in the millions of dollars, Werner said. But time saved is the real benefit. Officers don’t have to bring a suspect to a booking location to take fingerprints. With the biometric data collected on site, staff back at the office can prepare the paperwork to speed processing.

“It promotes our public safety and national security,” while ensuring we don’t take the wrong people  into custody, Werner said.

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