News

Franklin County police chiefs waiting for fingerprint fix

Written by Dale Heberling, Public Opinion Online | May 27, 2015 4:00 PM
frankling co courthouse 600x474.jpg

(Chambersburg) -- Franklin County officials met May 13 with local law officers and civil authorities to discuss complaints that too many defendants are passing through the county jail without getting fingerprinted.

Franklin County's Chief Administrator John Hart said, "It was a good meeting with good communication."

He said the county has taken some steps to improve the fingerprinting performance, but says better communication is the ultimate cure for shortcomings alleged by three local police chiefs in April.

Hart says staffing at the Franklin County Jail is not the reason for any fingerprinting failures.

"We identified several people off the list (of those who were not fingerprinted)," Hart said this week. "The reasons are human error. Everyone is human and no one is perfect."

However, he acknowledged that several additional staffers at the jail have "been designated" for central booking center duty where fingerprinting is performed.

He also pointed to a new column added to the log for weekly county central court proceedings that calls for a check mark indicating whether a defendant has been fingerprinted or not. Those not fingerprinted can then be done at a fingerprint station at the old court house.

In summary, Hart said, "It comes down to better communication between all the entities to make sure people are fingerprinted."

Washington Township Police Chief Barry Keller said this week, "Both sides agreed that we have some issues and we need to work through them to identify resolutions to resolve them."

Keller said that local and county courts, the district attorney and the sheriff's department must all be well-informed.

For now, Keller says, his department continues to do its own fingerprinting - rolling prints with ink the old-fashioned way while the central booking system works to improve the process.

"We're still doing out own," Keller said, "waiting to see if changes at the prison will have any impact."

Shippensburg Police Chief Fred Scott says he has little optimism that improvement is coming.

"We're waiting to see," Scott said this week. "We have to give them a chance, but we don't have much faith. They (county officials) say fingerprinting is really the local municipalities' responsibility, not the county's; and they say they don't want to spend any more money (on a solution)."

Waynesboro Police Chief James Sourbier said, he too, is giving the county a fair chance to make upgrades.

"They told us there are changes to be made," Sourbier said this week. "We ought to give them an opportunity to make the changes they say they will make."

In April, chiefs Keller and Scott and Waynesboro's James Sourbier went public with what they described as long-standing fingerprinting shortcomings by the county.

Sourbier said the prison is not to blame for all fingerprinting failures. He also took pains to credit prison officials, but attributed staffing and turnover as negative factors.

"My contention is that they (the booking center) don't consistently have trained staff available," Sourbier said in April. "As soon as they get someone trained up, they get jerked out and put somewhere else, or they quit and go somewhere else."

In April, County Commissioners David Keller and Robert Thomas pointed to statistics that reflect a high ranking of the county statewide.

Thomas went on to suggest the three chiefs of police had "personal agendas" that prompted their criticism.

In addition to Hart and the three cops, the May 13 meeting included Franklin County Jail Warden William Bechtold, booking center chief Lionel Pierre, Waynesboro Mayor Richard Starliper and Washington County Manager Mike Christopher.


This article comes to us through a partnership between Public Opinion Online and WITF. 

Published in News

Tagged under , ,

back to top

Post a comment

Give Now

Estate Planning

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Smart Talk

National Edward R. Murrow Awards

DuPont Columbia Awards

Support Local Journalism

Latest News from NPR

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »