Photo ID system plays a role in prominent trial
Photo ID system plays a role in prominent trial

Feb 1, 2000 12:00 PM
Jeanne Bonner

Officials had already been contemplating the need for access control at the Brazos County Courthouse in Bryan, Texas, when the county agreed to host a controversial criminal trial involving a hitchhiker who was beaten and then dragged behind a pickup truck. The high- profile trial made the need more urgent, and Total Identification, Houston, provided help in determining what equipment was needed to provide security and to control access to the courthouse during the trial.

The first of three defendants in the case had been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death in Jasper, Texas. The second defendant requested that his trial be held outside of Jasper. Relocated to Brazos County, the trial that followed brought chaos to the small town of Bryan. Racial tensions surrounded the case: The three defendants were white, and the victim was black.

A couple of weeks before the start of the second trial, Dunlop Farren, vice president of Total Identification, was summoned to the courthouse to demonstrate his OneID software, a turnkey badging solution that uses Eltron card printers. He loaded the software onto a PC, exported data from the county's personnel database, attached a Kodak CCD 4000 digital camera and connected an Eltron 300F printer. He could then print customized badges for the staff incorporating photos and personnel data. The Brazos County Courthouse staff purchased the system - the software, the Kodak camera and an Eltron 500F card printer - on the spot, says Farren. He left the Eltron 300F printer at the courthouse until the 500F could be delivered.

To control the flow of people into the courthouse, a single point of entry was established. Other entrances became emergency exit doors. Staff and visitors were required to wear the Eltron badges. The badges printed for the courthouse and county staff contained personnel data that allowed them to move freely within the building. Badges were affixed with photoreactive stickers, manufactured by Advantage, Lancaster, Pa. The stickers change color when a light is shined on them. Since they cannot be removed or duplicated, the number of unauthorized people admitted to the courthouse was reduced dramatically.

The badging system was implemented in three phases. In addition to the badges issued to the courthouse and county employees, all law enforcement officials - local, state and federal officers - were issued generic law enforcement badges which did not supply the officer's division. The strategy worked to limit the hype generated by the presence of the FBI and other federal agencies. Visitors, witnesses and the media also wore badges to provide limited access and were required to pass through metal detectors upon entering the security lobby. The badges separated all participants into three distinct groups - staff; law enforcement officials; and witnesses, media and visitors.

"The process of creating badges is very user-friendly with OneID software," says Sergeant Lita Sifuentes, a courthouse employee who was in charge of creating the badges. "There is a graphical user interface so all we do is enter data in the appropriate fields, snap a picture, and print the card." Total Identification trained the courthouse staff to print their own badges. In all, approximately 1,000 badges were printed for the trial.

"The trial was fortuitous for us because it highlighted the need to secure our courthouse," said Sheriff Christopher Kirk.

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