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Beyond fingerprints: celebrating 30 years of AFIS


Metropolitan King County
Council News

Beyond fingerprints: celebrating 30 years of AFIS


Council recognizes ID system


 Automated Fingerprint Information System—AFIS— Regional Manager Carol Gillespie (holding proclamation) and AFIS staff are joined by King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht and Councilmembers. The Council recognized the AFIS program as it celebrates 30 years of assisting law enforcement throughout King County

The first step toward responding to a crime is identifying a suspect. For three decades, King County’s Automated Fingerprint Information System or “AFIS” has done just that – helping law enforcement agencies throughout the county solve thousands of cases.

The Metropolitan King County Council recognized the (AFIS) program, a regional database of not only fingerprints, but also photos and additional evidence that aids in the investigation and arrest of suspects.

Supported by a voter-approved property tax levy, AFIS technicians respond to crime scenes and processes evidence using chemicals, photography, and other means to find fingerprints and palm prints left at crime scenes. That information goes into a central database that law-enforcement throughout the region can access.

The AFIS system includes 53 Livescan fingerprinting devices connected to the AFIS computer, and 270 Mobile ID handheld fingerprint devices used by officers for remote searches in the field. It’s a system that reduces an identification process that once took days into hours if the suspect’s fingerprints are in the system.

The use of AFIS technology has recently been used to track down suspects in the killing of the son of a Seattle Police Officer who interrupted a car prowler, a series of break-ins at businesses and a sexual assault in a senior service facility.

In addition to taking fingerprints, AFIS staff who work in correctional facilities capture booking photos, collect DNA samples, and create photo montages (“line-ups”), which detectives use to help victims identify suspects. Other services include working with victims of identity theft and identifying injured, unconscious, or deceased individuals

Because it is a regional service, AFIS provides significant financial benefit to county taxpayers. In preparing to ask voters to renew the levy this past August, AFIS managers reviewed program operations and found ways to eliminate 11 full time positions while still providing the same high-quality, professional service to King County law enforcement agencies. The new AFIS levy will collect $1.5 million less in 2019 than it did in 2018.


“I want to thank the leadership and staff of the Regional AFIS Program for 30 years of outstanding public service. Because of their hard work, King County’s program is known nationally for technical excellence, collaboration and innovation. I am confident the next 30 years will bring nothing but further success.”
--Council Vice Chair Claudia Balducci

“Over the last 30 years the AFIS has been an irreplaceable tool in the apprehension of criminal suspects and has become a model for cost-effective regionalized services. I look forward to their continued good work in helping to keep the residents of King County safe.”
--Councilmember Reagan Dunn

“I congratulate the AFIS staff for 30 years of success in helping to solve thousands of cases. Their expertise is a critical component of public safety and delivering justice for crime victims and their families.”
--King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht


WHEREAS, since its inception in 1988, the King County Regional Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) program has promoted public safety by providing identification services to all criminal justice agencies throughout the county; and

WHEREAS, King County has achieved 30 years of continuous local AFIS technology and operations, beginning with the first computer installation in 1988, an upgrade in 1999, and a system replacement in 2011; and

WHEREAS, the AFIS program provides effective crime solving support and is nationally recognized for its exceptional forensic fingerprint identification services; and

WHEREAS, through investments in centralized staff and technology, the AFIS program has become a model for cost-effective regionalized services and information sharing; and

WHEREAS, the AFIS program responds to crime scenes and processes evidence using chemicals, photography, and other means to find fingerprints and palm prints left at crime scenes, and it has earned international laboratory accreditation; and

WHEREAS, King County criminal justice agencies consider the AFIS program to be essential to law enforcement and value its high standards and service;

NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Metropolitan King County Council and the King County Executive, recognize the staff and leadership of the County’s

Regional AFIS Program

of the past three decades for their valuable contributions to promoting public safety for all residents of King County.

DATED this fifth day of November, 2018

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