The Times West Virginian

Local News

July 18, 2014

FBI’s CJIS is ‘tip of the spear’ in biometrics

Agency’s state-of-the-art programs help law enforcement

CLARKSBURG — Stephen L. Morris, the new assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division, is working with state-of-the-art programs that support law enforcement across the country.

Morris, who officially came to Clarksburg around mid-May to take on this new role, met with members of the media during a special session at the facility Thursday afternoon.

He has nearly 26 years of experience, as a special agent and in management positions in various locations, with the FBI. This is the third time he has been assigned to the CJIS Division, which he has been associated with since 2005.

Morris, who is originally from South Carolina and now lives in Bridgeport, explained that the FBI moved to its location in Clarksburg about 20 years ago. CJIS began as a fingerprint identification division, and over time went from paper fingerprint cards to an automated process.

Fingerprints are the most well-known biometric modality — a characteristic used to identify a person. The CJIS Division’s work in fingerprints has allowed it to expand into other biometrics, such as irises, palm prints and facial patterns.

Now, the facility doesn’t focus just on fingerprint identification, but is also heavily involved and leading the way in biometrics in general, Morris said.

He said everything that the CJIS Division does is fingerprint-based and biometrics-based. The entity has an extensive fingerprint repository, and shows international partners how to collect and manage fingerprints. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) program is replacing the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS).

The division is in the process of constructing a new 360,000-square-foot Biometrics Technology Center across the street from its existing building. The center, which is expected for completion in about a year, will put all of the CJIS Division’s biometrics programs under one roof, Morris said.

The Department of Defense has a biometrics operation that has worked very closely with the FBI’s CJIS Division for years, and those outside workers will be relocated to the new center, too.

Since 1992, the division has had a satellite facility at the Middletown Mall in Fairmont, where about half of the workers in its biometrics section work. All of those employees will be also brought to the Clarksburg campus once the new center opens.

“We are literally the tip of the spear, I think, when it comes to biometrics,” Morris said. “I think that’s a pretty cool story to tell.”

He said the CJIS Division has also gotten very good at developing large information sharing systems to manage records for law enforcement, such as the National Data Exchange (N-DEx) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The division is looking at developing the next generation of NCIC, which has been around for more than 20 years.

In addition, the location manages and operates the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, which offers data on crime across the country, and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which does background checks for firearms and is a growing program.

Because of its strength in handling a large amount of telephone calls, the division developed a call center capability. Now, anytime there is a national-level investigation, the entity can immediately set up an 800 phone number that people can call, and also has a permanent public access line, Morris said.

The CJIS Division employs more than 3,000 people total, which includes 2,500 full-time workers and around 500 contractors. During fiscal year 2013, the operation paid $236 million in compensation and benefits to employees who live in the area.

Check out Monday’s edition of the Times West Virginian for more information about Morris and his conversation with the media.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

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