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Rishi Ramcharan shows his police certificate from the Maldives after leaving the Tunapuna Police Station yesterday.

Citizens will once again be able to receive Certificates of Character, as the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) says its Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) should be repaired and ready for use come Friday (May 7).

The AFIS system allows the TTPS to search for a fingerprint on its national database.

The server has been down for over two months and members of the public were unable to get their certificates because of it. This hampered many who were applying for a job that required the certificate as a prerequisite.

Guardian Media was told that the delay was due to shipping problems brought on by the pandemic. We were told the part that was ordered is not something that the TTPS can purchase in bulk, in case it malfunctions, as the server is not owned by the TTPS, which pays a subscription fee to use it.

Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith wants the public to know that the machine is a very complex piece of equipment and therefore could have not been repaired overnight.

“This is so technical that what it does is link your fingerprint with any situation in any crime scene, or even people who are charged not just locally but internationally through Interpol, so people may just think it’s a simple thing but it’s not because it is not something you can acquire locally.”

But how did the TTPS function without this critical piece of equipment over the last two months?

Strategic advisor to the Police Commissioner, Dwight Andrews, said there was a manual backup that was implemented in the interim.

“In emergencies, there is a manual way to do things but that takes a lot longer. But it’s not like if something happened and we find a fingerprint we are not able to match it, we’d just have to match it manually and that requires significantly more time, so what would take three minutes on the system would take them three weeks to do manually because you have to go through each fingerprint card, with a trained technician to match it up.”

Andrews noted that when someone seeks a Certificate of Character, that does not take priority over criminal investigations.

Andrews added the technology does not malfunction very often and had it not been for the restrictions of the pandemic the machine would have been fixed in days.