My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Fingerprinting changes are long overdue because the media failed to report on the potential problems

For nearly a year, was the only media outlet reporting about the problems that the Census Bureau faced in terms of fingerprinting the 1.4 million people who were set to work for the 2010 Census. And we continue that fight today.

In December 2009, I reported that a convicted felon in Alaska was working in a supervisory position for the Census Bureau. This was discovered only after the man killed his mother and then himself. Clearly, this incident should have made calls for improved fingerprinting procedures at the Census Bureau obvious. However, the Census Bureau maintained the status quo and did nothing — fending off my questions and ignoring my concerns.

This incident occurred two months AFTER I originally posted the flaws of the 2010 Census fingerprinting process that were written by child advocate and fingerprinting expert David Allburn, who offered solutions to the Census Bureau that were ultimately refused. Allburn wrote:

(1) The Bureau should announce that trainees are responsible for the “readability” of their own fingerprints, and that fingerprint “failure” due to un-readability (or to discovery of disqualifying criminal history), terminates the canvasser’s employment. This stops attracting ex-felons who would intentionally blur their prints, but it is manifestly unfair to honest workers whose fingerprints are blurred by the inexperienced print-takers. This is fixed by step two.

(2) The Bureau should augment its fingerprint capture by adopting part of our patented “self-capture” technique. Invented by a war veteran, the method has applicants use an extra minute or two to make their own set of “backup prints”, observed and authenticated by the print-taker. Barcoded and enclosed with the cards forwarded to the scanning center, those self-captured prints are readily available for fixing any individual print impressions found “bad.” Well tested, this gets the cards through the FBI with the same dependability as live-scanning offers, typically twenty times better than the old rubber-stamp method now in use.

Only after a handicapped woman was raped by a 2010 Census employee and a sex offender was caught going door-to-door did the Census Bureau decide to change their policies. Is that what it takes to create “change” in America?

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14 Responses to “MyTwoCensus Editorial: Fingerprinting changes are long overdue because the media failed to report on the potential problems”

  1. anonymous Says:

    Thank you, My Two Census. I had a person sitting next to me in training that did not pass our state’s/FBI Fingerprintint Check. This was a few months ago – different operation. I overheard the CL and CLA discussing the reasons why he failed. I never discussed the details, however, it scared me ….

  2. 'nuff already Says:

    While I have been mostly critical of census operations, I have to say my CL and CLA did a great job with fingerprinting. They checked and rechecked and if they didn’t think it was right or if it seemed blurry, they did it over until they got it right! See, some things work well!

  3. Maiasaura Says:

    I often agree with you, but–a THIRD set of fingerprints in case the first two fail? Naw. Get it right the first time with people properly trained or use an electronic capture. I was trained as a fingerprinter by the 2010 Census, and I think I wasn’t especially good at it. Honestly I don’t know if I was good or not, because I never got feedback as to whether the prints I took were acceptable or not. I’m not a professional fingerprinter.

  4. pranita veeria Says:

    Fingerprinting needs to be done at least TWO-THREE weeks prior to hiring….it eliminates the cretons getting hired (not excluding management of course) and allows for proper processing of paperwork…not to be done by employees who are trained a day before doing the printing themselves……COMMON SENSE

  5. Ex-IT Says:

    Suggestion 1 will pretty much mean “Do not hire anybody over age 55″, because people who worked with their hands all their lives are probably where over 90% of the fingerprint problems are. The unclassifiables are mostly the older workers that the Census Bureau depends on (especially in non-recession Deceinials. Given the hype for Live-scan, I doubt Suggestion 2 is going to help the trainees who through no fault of their own do not have classifiable fingerprints (at least 5% of the population, with a MUCH higher percentage among older citizens)

    You need to stop relying on advice from sour-grapes vendors who didn’t get a lucrative contract.

  6. Jim Mpls Says:

    Our two CLAs were very conscientious, but having one day of training didn’t prepare them to be expert or efficient. We 15 (plus 1 CL standing by) waited two hours to be printed. That’s 15 X 2 X 16.50 or $495, plus whatever the CL gets per hour, plus two days fingerprint training at CLA rates. If they’d had experts do us when we did our first I-9 or at the test, they would have saved many training dollars, including for any weeded out after training.

  7. B Says:

    Jim’s comment is totally spot-on. I have been fingerprinted 4 times, basically because the staff doing the fingerprinting did not know how to do it. It may have been more effective, in terms of costs and effectiveness, if the fingerprinting had been contracted to a security company.

  8. justathought Says:

    What is really a waste of money is when you have a ton of CB employees who worked in the “prison system” who could have easily done the prints in minutes…but instead let the CL’s deal with the prints..!! IMO it could have saved TONSSSS of money for the CB.

  9. Anonymous678 Says:

    I worked as a professional finger print tech for three years. I prepared finger print cards for submission to the FBI. I offered my services and was told they didn’t need me. On the first day of training,(Enumerator) they finger printed us. WOW LOL ! In private industry they require you to be finger printed about THREE MONTHS before your first day of work. LOL

  10. Amanda Says:

    I as a CL STILL have one enumerator who has yet to get a good print done. She goes again tomorrow to get a 4th set of prints done. Umm…she has no more work to do NOW! Too little, too late, I’m afraid.

  11. Julie Says:

    Thank you, MyTwoCensus, for all you do to reveal the unethical, illegal and immoral activities of the 2010 US Census. I am appalled at the lack of proper HR training and procedures. The relentless drive to complete surveys has completely overridden all sense of reason and even concern for public safety.
    Please make your voice heard by signing this petition ( that calls for accountability, transparency, transformation and human decency!

  12. Arpad Golgoth Says:

    I got a 95 on the test. The proctor seemed excited by this. They wanted me to be a supervisor. Then they told me I had a criminal record when I do not. They would not tell me what I did, or when or where I did it, just that I had to prove to them that I didn’t do it. It was Kafkaesque to say the least. Then I heard about about a class action suit vs. the census bureau by lots of people who had the same thing happen to them. I emailed the law firm that was handling it and sent them all the documentation in support of my story. A barely literate black woman called me back and asked me if I was a white man. I said yes. She said I could not be part of the suit because I was a white man and hung up. What happened to this country?

  13. Jen Says:

    Using Thom Gruenig to further your argument that the Census is not screening their potential employees is really a bad move. Thom Gruenig was never fingerprinted and that is why his fingerprints came back as no match. The felony that Thom Gruenig was convicted of occurred at UAF. It was a college prank. All equipment that was taken was turned into the UAF Police department. Felony charges were brought up later because some of the equipment was damaged. Thom Gruenig was never arrested and therefore, never fingerprinted. He was issued a summons to go to court. So faulting the Census for not doing more is a mistake.

  14. Jen Says:

    And Thom Gruenig was shot by police. Please, if you are going to call yourself a reporter, you need to keep the facts straight.