The New York City Police Department is currently running a pilot program in which the Iris’ of persons arrested are being scanned in order to ensure that they are dealing with the same person throughout the initial legal proceedings. The new program, which is currently being used in the borough of Manhattan will scan a defendants iris at the central booking facility and then again before arraignment to make sure it is the same person. Apparently the NYPD believes that a number of prisoners have falsified their identity at arraignment and have thus slipped through the cracks of the justice system. To me this seems like a project that will cost an insanely large amount of money to solve a problem that seems like more of a failure on that part of court personnel.
At a time when the State of New York is on the verge of almost claiming poverty, the city continues to spend money on projects such as this that could be easily moved to the back burner until other more important needs have been satisfied. Unfortunately this seems like a common theme everywhere in America these days, to spend and spend on things that only a certain few believe are absolutely necessary. How many times have defendants passed themselves off as others and is it enough times to justify the development of eye scanning technology to be introduced? In all honesty this is a department that still isn’t completely computerized and is one of the, if the not the biggest users of typewriters in the United States. Is it logical then to give a department that is charged with protecting one of the biggest, most populous cities the world a device that will probably prove useless 90% of the time before they upgrade their everyday abilities to fight crime?
Aside from any of the fiscal components of this project is, as always in New York City, the civil liberty concerns. Listen, I am a person that is all for giving up some of my rights and expectations of privacy as long as it is being used for the so-called “greater good”, and by “greater good” I mean keeping this country safe. However, scanning the eyes of every person arrested and before they have had a trial seems like a bit too much, even for me. The guidelines for the scanning are just too undetermined at this time, why not just have those arrested for felony offense scanned and upon conviction the scans are kept on file. Without a conviction the files should be erased forever and persons arrested for misdemeanor offenses should never even be scanned, because what is a person facing a suspended larceny charge looking to escape at arraignment. This is New York City after all and they already know they are getting a slap on the wrist for their offense.
All and all I am still split down the middle on this whole thing, in its current use I really do not feel that it is a neccessary step that needs to be taken. What needs to be done to make it more attractive is to come up with better guidelines for it’s use and storage of records that are stored in it’s system. I’m not saying the idea as a whole is bad but at some point there needs to be somebody out there that just says “no” everytime someone has a knee jerk reaction and a brilliant fix to go with it.