Orange County expands mobile police fingerprinting despite opposition

A protester holds up a sign during a Black Lives Matter protest in Huntington Beach June 6.
A protester holds up a sign as Orange County sheriff’s deputies shift positions during a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Huntington Beach on June 6.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a mobile police fingerprinting system Tuesday over the objections of anti-racism activists who said the tool would disproportionately impact people of color and people living in the margins.

One commenter at the supervisors meeting, Kelly, said the prospect of field fingerprinting “terrifies” her. She asked if peaceful protesters — like the ones at dozens of demonstrations locally and innumerable protests nationwide this summer against recent police shootings of Black and other nonwhite people — would be printed.

“This has the emotional and psychological and literal effect of adding to a sense that we live in a police state,” she said.

After hearing from about half a dozen commenters, the supervisors unanimously approved the item without discussion.

With $3 million in state funds drawn from vehicle registration fees, InCadence Strategic Solutions Corp. will provide equipment to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to digitally capture and transmit finger and palm prints from the field for three years, with the option for up to seven additional one-year extensions.

Another woman told the supervisors this is an intimidation tool.

“We know who this targets — that famous line of, ‘You fit the description.’ That person,” she said.

A man named Chris said activists like himself want to meet the supervisors halfway to stop criminalizing homelessness. He said he knows firsthand about criminalizing people of color without further enforcement tools.

“I don’t need any more problems trying to go to work,” he said.

A woman named T.K. said the community doesn’t need biometric information on the street for police to abuse.

“There’s a misuse of policing and they abuse their authority, and for you to disregard that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s still happening,” she told the supervisors. “You know it and you’re a part of it.”

Thousands of protesters just in Orange County, from Newport Beach to Yorba Linda, Laguna Niguel to Anaheim, have marched in the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Black Americans killed this year in Minnestota and Kentucky, the former during an arrest and the latter by police executing a “no knock” warrant. The most recent police shooting to garner reaction nationwide is the Sunday shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, Wisc., who was paralyzed by police bullets.

“To use this money for funding this right now in the midst of a civil rights movement and a protest of police brutality is a massive statement about awareness of these incidents, or lack thereof, systemic racism and a move for the further oppression of BIPOC [Black, indigenous and people of color] human beings,” Kelly said.

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