PRINT PROCESS: Fingerprinting still best method of identifying people

·2 min read

Jan. 28—Fingerprints reveal basic information about an individual's life, and that's why they have long been used for identification purposes in criminal investigations.

Every fingerprint is unique, so no one has the exact same ones, including identical twins. The ridges and points can be used to identify birth, name, address and employment. They also remain constant throughout a lifetime.

Fingerprints are the oldest method for identifying individuals, as they were used to seal signatures in ancient Babylonia and China. It wasn't until a British official began developing a system of identification fingerprint for Indian criminals that the system began being used for other purposes.

Cherokee County Detention Center Jail Administrator T.J. Girdner said a new mugshot and fingerprints should be taken every time a person is arrested.

"The [Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation] requires us to do them on each and every individual who comes in here," said Girdner. "The fingerprints we get, they are electronically submitted into the OSBI database and then they send us a confirmation letter back."

Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King said most inmates housed at the city jail are not required to be fingerprinted after every arrest.

"There are certain crimes that require fingerprinting by the state. Those prisoners [are who] we wouldn't house, anyway [as] they'd go straight to CCDC," said King.

While CCDC prints fingers electronically, Girdner said they can still print using the ink method.

"Some people still require ink, but you have to be certified. The only time we'll use ink [is when] some of the elderly [arrestees] don't have very good fingerprints left, so we'll use that method. Someone who has severe arthritis or medical conditions, sometimes you have to print them over, doing it electronically," he said.

CCDC will keep fingerprint records current, and Girdner said a scar, abrasion or even dry skin can alter a print.

Fingerprints are also required for those who want an Oklahoma Concealed Carry Permit. The completed application — along with two-colored, passport-style photographs, fees, and blank fingerprint cards — must be turned over to the sheriff's office in the county where the applicant resides.

"They will come in here with their own cards, we will print them using our equipment, and it's the same process we for general background checks. Everybody who requires fingerprints, it still goes to the OSBI," said Girdner. "We charge $25 for those [prints]."

CCDC had suspended taking fingerprints for the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, but has since resumed.