Scott Davidson / Creative Commons
Fingerprinting services at many Connecticut police departments were delayed after a glitch surfaced in a new statewide fingerprinting system. Scott Davidson / Creative Commons

Police departments across the state have been forced to use “old-school” paper-and-ink fingerprinting techniques after they weren’t able to connect to a new $22 million fingerprinting system that went live on July 25.

State police and teams from Idemia, the European-based technology company that designed the system, will be crisscrossing the state this week, helping to get police departments connected. Meanwhile, officials have been working with Idemia representatives to create short-term solutions while they determine why the system is not working. Police departments have been told that the system may not be fully operational until Aug. 9.

Officials said a number of issues arose when police weren’t able to connect to the system. The first was identifying arrested suspects. Many departments took ink impressions and brought the prints to state police to run through the system, which slowed the criminal background-check process considerably, officials said.

But police also do background checks on potential employees, from teachers to security guards to school bus drivers and nursing-home workers, and those services were delayed in several towns.

“Due to technical difficulties, the Danbury Police Department has discontinued all fingerprinting services until further notice, we apologize for the inconvenience,” read a notice on the Danbury police website.

Some departments have had their connections restored, such as the South Windsor police, who alerted residents late Thursday that their fingerprinting system was back on-line and appointments could be made to get fingerprints.

South Windsor Sgt. Mark Cleverdon said the department initially couldn’t access the new system with the special code they had received. Each department is assigned a code that is supposed to be entered to access the system and download fingerprint data.

“We had to go ‘old school’ for a few days and use ink and fingerprint cards for anyone we arrested,” Cleverdon said Friday. “It’s like with any new system — there are going to be some glitches, but we are back scheduling appointments for residents.”

“We are still doing fingerprinting, but some departments are down because of user errors,” Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella said.

“We have focused on getting the biggest police departments online and will have teams visiting smaller departments this week to get everybody access,” Rovella said. “All state police barracks are able to use the system and do fingerprinting if necessary.”

Rovella said at least five teams from Idemia will be in Connecticut today to fan out and visit police departments still not on-line.

‘Secret deal’ alleged

The slow rollout is the latest issue with the contract that was approved by former Department of Emergency Services and Public Safety Commissioner Dora Schriro back in 2017.

The program is already a year and a half behind schedule and is costing the state significantly more than the original contract, according to court records. The previous contractor, Gemalto Cogent, has also filed a lawsuit still pending in state court that alleges that state officials illegally skirted regulations and awarded the contract to Idemia without putting it out to bid.

So far, the state has paid Idemia more than $14 million, according to state records.

The new system is supposed to streamline the entire process by allowing each state agency or police department to access the database themselves without the help of the state police. Every state agency will have its own machine that will allow them to download fingerprints and check them, as will each price department.

Rovella said the old system was “outdated” and needed to be replaced.

Rovella is named as the defendant in the lawsuit filed in 2019 by Gemalto, even though he was not the commissioner at the time the new firm was hired. The lawsuit alleges the contract wasn’t properly out out to bid and that Gemalto was denied an opportunity to bid on it, even though they had been running the state’s AFIS fingerprinting system since 2004.

The lawsuit alleges that state officials made a “secret deal” with Idemia “that will cost the state millions and millions of dollars.”

The contract is for $22.2 million but calls for the state to renew it for an additional five years if they choose to do so.

The state is asking a Superior Court judge to dismiss the lawsuit because state officials followed the proper procedure and got permission to seek the contract under emergency authorization from the state Standardization Committee.

That committee is made up of the commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services, the Office of State Treasurer, Office of the State Comptroller, and several others designated by the governor, and they determine when a state agency can waive the competitive process for emergency reasons for any contract over $50,000.

In this case, that committee waived the standing bidding process in December 2016, records show.

“The waiver of the competitive bidding process was authorized by a committee of various agency representatives in accordance with the statute after DAS diligently worked with DESPP to ensure a waiver was appropriate,” Assistant Attorney General Christine Jean Louis wrote in a summary judgment motion.

“Any alleged mistakes or misinformation along the way reflect an intent to comply with the statute out of good faith and does not rise to the level of fraud, favoritism or corruption, which is the standard necessary for the court to intervene to protect the general public,” Louis wrote.

The lawsuit is still pending. A judge has not ruled on either motion for summary judgment by the state or Gemalto’s attorney’s.

Dave does in-depth investigative reporting for CT Mirror. His work focuses on government accountability including financial oversight, abuse of power, corruption, safety monitoring, and compliance with law. Before joining CT Mirror Altimari spent 23 years at the Hartford Courant breaking some of the state’s biggest, most impactful investigative stories.