State Police officials have advised sheriffs throughout the state not to release mug shots of accused offenders to the news media if the photographs were taken with equipment tied to a confidential federal database.
“A sheriff’s office can give out a photo, just not the IAFIS photo,” Sgt. Len Marie, of State Police Region I, said Thursday in Baton Rouge.
But that means that some sheriffs may cease providing mug shots because they don’t have a separate camera system.
That is now the case in Iberville Parish, said Maj. Johnny Blanchard, of the Sheriff’s Office.
“IAFIS, that’s the one (camera system) we use,” Blanchard said.
“We received a (State Police) fax one day last week,” Blanchard said. “We immediately complied. Now, the only way we can release (a photo) is if it’s on a wanted poster.”
IAFIS is shorthand for the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.
The FBI’s website described IAFIS as “a national fingerprint and criminal history system that responds to (law enforcement) requests 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
IAFIS reports include “not only fingerprints, but corresponding criminal histories; mug shots; scars and tattoo photos; physical characteristics like height, weight, and hair and eye color; and aliases,” the FBI site said.
“It’s a national investigative tool, and it’s not a public record,” said Marie, the State Police spokesman.
In East Baton Rouge Parish, the Sheriff’s Office released mug shots in the past, and it will provide them to the news media in the future, spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.
The Sheriff’s Office is tied into IAFIS, Hicks noted, but it has a separate system for mug shots.
Hicks said State Police officials confirmed “we can continue to send you those” photographs.
But the Louisiana Sheriffs Association does not yet know how many sheriffs will no longer release mug shots of people accused of rape, murder, robbery and other crimes.
Michael Ranatza, the association’s executive director, said Thursday: “Some sheriffs have redundant (camera) systems. Some don’t. We don’t keep records on that.
“We’re working with the State Police concerning their directive,” Ranatza added. “We believe our current practices are within the law.”
Association officials will continue working with State Police for another week to ensure statewide compliance with the mug shot policy, Ranatza said.
Meanwhile, the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office has ended release of mug shots to ensure no violations occur, said Col. Richie Johnson.
A violation could send a deputy or other sheriff’s employee to jail for 90 days, Johnson added.
All West Baton Rouge mug shots are taken through the IAFIS system, Johnson explained.
“We don’t own that system,” Johnson said.
The FBI described its system as “the largest biometric database in the world.”
Before that database was launched in July 1999, searching for a match to one person’s fingerprints was an ordeal “taking weeks or months,” the FBI said on its website.
Now, “the average response time for an electronic criminal fingerprint submission is about 10 minutes,” the FBI said.
“IAFIS is the largest biometric database in the world, housing the fingerprints and criminal histories for more than 66 million subjects,” the FBI added.