New iris identification units now being used in St. Tammany - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

New iris identification units now being used in St. Tammany

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Covington, La. -

Imagine being pulled over on a traffic stop, having a deputy take a picture of your eye, and all your prior arrests become instantly available.

It's part of a new technology package now in place on the North Shore, and perhaps spreading fast across the region.

It's a special camera, attached to a smartphone, that can instantly recognize an individual and his criminal history with the tap of a finger.  That tap snaps a picture of a suspect's iris, and immediately gives a deputy a positive ID if the person has ever been arrested.

Pictures are now being taken of the irises of 4,000 St. Tammany inmates to add to a nationwide database of thousands of individuals.

Right now St, Tammany deputies only have four of these MORIS units (that stands for Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System) deployed in the field, but that number could double by this time next year.

The ACLU has concerns.  "It seems to be spending an enormous amount of taxpayer money to solve a problem that doesn't seem to exist," says Marjorie Esman, director of the Louisiana ACLU.

But St. Tammany officials say problems with mistaken identities crop up all the time, and they say the costs are covered by the state, so far.

The new MORIS units can also make ID's through fingerprints and facial recognition, but the iris is considered most effective.

Legal challenges notwithstanding, other parishes are now taking a hard look at this new technology that could remove a lot of the guesswork, when it comes to police making sure they have the right suspect.

The new iris registry already includes iris photos, or scans, of nearly 290 sex offenders registered in St. Tammany Parish.  Each camera costs under $500.

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