Case Study: Hands-on Security

Cheektowaga, N.Y., police incorporate biometrics for a real "hands-on" access solution


For the common area doors, the biometric readers were also a natural solution. Tom Hosking, the implementation manager for LINSTAR, explains that "[the officers] didn't want to be fumbling with keys or cards so they could keep one hand on the cuffs and use one hand to open the door. They are definitely able to control prisoners better with biometric access."

To connect and control the biometric readers, LINSTAR chose System Galaxy, an access control product from Galaxy Control Systems in Walkersville, Maryland. System Galaxy's hardware and software created a centralized system that Lt. Isbrandt could control easily from the workstation in his office. For the readers, LINSTAR chose fingerprint readers from Sagem Morpho, Inc. The readers identify a user by fingerprint alone, without the use of a card or token.

When installation began, LINSTAR worked on just one door at time to limit any inconvenience to the department. Six interior biometric readers and two exterior readers covered the necessary doors, and an intercom at a back door provided access for whenever a county sheriff might deliver a prisoner.

LINSTAR installed two System Galaxy 508 control panels in the department's UPS-powered server room, and one System Galaxy 502 panel in the courthouse. System Galaxy software (version 7) runs on a laptop for Lt. Isbrandt, on a workstation for his boss, Captain Thomas Rowan, and on a server in the server room. This arrangement gives both the lieutenant and the captain the ability to view, control, and change the system parameters conveniently from either of their offices.

Lt. Isbrandt is responsible for administering the system for the department, which includes adding new employees to the system and changing the settings for current employees. He describes, "I do all the fingerprinting for new employees. I can make changes here on my laptop to access settings - take certain doors away, add other doors." The system is also programmed to sound an alarm on the lieutenant's laptop if a door is forced or left open too long.

Fingerprinting the entire staff of the police department and courthouse proved to be the most daunting task of the project. As Lt. Isbrandt states, "These people work 24 hours a day, in three different shifts, so trying to get in touch with all of them and get fingerprints from them was complicated." More than 200 people needed to be printed; with only one person collecting the fingerprints, the process took a month to complete.

As the finger printing process occurred, LINSTAR left the old locks on the doors so employees could still enter using keys and codes. Since switching over completely, reaction to the system has been positive. "It was a change, and people tend to resist change," explains Lt. Isbrandt, “but overall, we've had positive feedback from everybody…we finally have some control over who can come in and who can't." The system has also been helpful with a personnel issue, as "it records who comes in and goes out, and we've used [that information] in an internal investigation."

Hosking gives a larger perspective on the improvement. "We've helped improve public safety," says Hosking, "and made the building safer for everyone. The officers have said they feel safer when they're moving prisoners. That's a good feeling for them - and for all of us at LINSTAR."

About the author: Rick Fournier is chief operating officer of Galaxy Control Systems. He can be reached at rfournier@galaxysys.com.