I’m cleaning out all the school papers from my (now adult) kids and deciding what to keep and not keep. Are the fingerprints I got done for my kids when they were in elementary school on file, with the local police department or somewhere, official? Or should I hang on to those fingerprint cards forever just in case there’s ever a need to identify them?

Chris from St. Joseph


As always, I thank you for taking the time to ask this question. I hope that the information provided helps to answer your question.

The fingerprinting of young schoolchildren was an initiative that began in the 1980s in response to the increase in television coverage surrounding the abduction of school-age children. The problem with this initiative at the time was that there was no standardization of the system. Each school district was allowed to implement a system in whatever way they saw fit. This meant that some fingerprints were simply kept on file with the school while the student was in attendance, other districts placed the prints on file with local police departments.

This initiative soon raised other questions surrounding the privacy of the students who were having their fingerprints taken. What would happen with these fingerprints once the students became a legal adult? How were police departments allowed to use these fingerprints for purposes other than finding a child that had been abducted? These questions, among others, would be a large part of the reason that these fingerprinting programs lost their popularity.

The best answer to your question, Chris, would be to check with the police department that was initially involved in the fingerprinting of your individual children to see if they still have the fingerprints on file. There is no official database here at the St. Joseph Police Department of juvenile fingerprints. I would always recommend that you keep the fingerprints in your possession to be used as a resource by local law enforcement just in case something were to happen.

I hope this provides some insight into your situation and, as always, feel free to contact our department if you have any other questions.

Have a question you'd like to see answered? Email it to us at AskACop@TheHP.com.