A consortium of state and local law enforcement agencies in the western U.S. is set to modernize a criminal identification system shared by its members.

There are eight states in the nonprofit Western Identification Network (WIN): Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Each state has access to nearly 28 million fingerprint records in the western U.S. and also interfaces with the FBI.

IT and biometrics technology vendor NEC announced Tuesday, Feb. 21, a multiyear contract with WIN to modernize the organization’s criminal identification system. The updated system will give WIN access to advanced identification capabilities, such as high-resolution palm and fingerprint matching.

The existing WIN system will move to a “fault-tolerant” architecture, a cloud-based system that’s compliant with the FBI’s latest electronic biometric transmission specification. The new capability should help WIN use the identification services unveiled last year by the FBI through its Next Generation Identification system, according to Tuesday’s announcement from NEC.

The Western Identification Network was formed in 1988, and soon after launched its multistate Automated Fingerprint Identification System. NEC will modernize WIN’s existing infrastructure and implement disaster recovery.

Kenneth Birschoff, CEO of WIN, said all eight participating states are connected to a central service bureau in Rancho Cordova, Calif. Through WIN, the participating states are able to interface with the FBI.

For example, Nevada receives fingerprints from all over the state, for everything from criminal matters to routine background checks for casino workers, Bischoff said.

Bischoff said those fingerprints are electronically submitted to the Nevada Department of Public Safety. The department connects back to WIN’s California-based central site and servers. All incoming fingerprints arrive at the central site. For Nevada’s fingerprints, the state determines — based on the type of fingerprints — whether they should be sent to the FBI.

Julie Butler, records bureau manager for Nevada’s public safety department, said handling the different fingerprint records is a core business function.

“Like anything IT, we run into some challenges day to day,” Butler said. “But at the end of the day, it all works — and it all works really well. This is a system that’s mission critical for us and for the seven other members.”

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.