Using technology pioneered by the military, local law enforcement agencies are gearing up to collect iris scans and other biometric data during traffic stops and other encounters

By Ali Winston, The Center for Investigative Reporting
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Without notice to the public, Los Angeles County law enforcement officials are preparing to widen what personal information they collect from people they encounter in the field and in jail — by building a massive database of iris scans, fingerprints, mug shots, palm prints and, potentially, voice recordings.

The new database of personal information — dubbed a multimodal biometric identification system — would augment the county’s existing database of fingerprint records and create the largest law enforcement repository outside of the FBI of so-called next generation biometric identification, according to L.A. County sheriff’s Department documents.

On Sept. 15, the FBI announced that the Next Generation Identification System was fully operational. Now that the central infrastructure is in place, the next phase is for local jurisdictions across the country to update their own information-gathering systems to the FBI’s standards.

When the system is up and running in L.A., any law enforcement official working in the county, including members of the Los Angeles Police Department, would collect biometric information on people who are booked into county jails or by using mobile devices in the field.

This would occur even when people are stopped for lesser offenses or pulled over for minor traffic violations, according to documents obtained by The Center for Investigative Reporting through a public records request.

Officials with the sheriff’s department, which operates the countywide system, said the biometric information would be retained indefinitely — regardless of whether the person in question is convicted of the crime for which he or she was arrested.

This story was produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read the rest of the story here.

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