Advisory Concerning the Chicago Fire Department’s and Chicago Police Department’s Failures to Utilize the Biometric Component of the City’s Timekeeping System

An OIG investigation found that neither CFD nor CPD enroll their employees in the City’s biometric timekeeping system. The biometric component of the respective electronic timekeeping systems helps ensure that an employee is physically present when he or she clocks in for work, thus reducing the risk of time falsification and absenteeism.

In contrast to CFD and CPD, the vast majority of City departments require a new employee, at or around the time of their hiring, to have their hand scanned at City Hall to enroll in the biometric timekeeping system. A three-dimensional image of the hand is then converted to an electronic template which is stored with the user’s ID number in a database. Thereafter, in order to clock in or out for a given day, an employee must swipe their ID card at a biometric hand scanner time clock ( “Time Clock”) or punch in their ID number on the Time Clock’s numeric keypad and then place their hand on the Time Clock’s hand scanner. According to the Time Clock user manual, the Time Clock compares the scanned hand “with the stored user’s unique template. If the images match, the [Time Clock] records the transaction for processing.” Thus, the requirement of a hand scan prevents City employees from improperly clocking in or out for each other.

Although both CFD and CPD have rules regarding timekeeping that direct their employees to place their hands on the Time Clock’s hand scanner after swiping their ID cards, see CFD General Order 18-005(V)(B)(I) & CPD Department Notice D17-06(V)(E)(2) , neither CFD nor CPD enroll their employees in the biometric component of the City’s timekeeping system by having their hands scanned when first entered into the system. As a result, following the swipe of a CFD or CPD employee’s ID card or the manual entry of a CFD or CPD employee’s ID number, the Time Clock will accept the scan of any hand that is placed on its scanner, even if it is not the hand of the person whose ID card was swiped or ID number was entered. Accordingly, CFD and CPD employees do not have to be physically present to successfully clock in or out.

OIG had two CFD employees separately swipe their ID cards at a Time Clock located at CFD’s 3510 South Michigan headquarters. On each occasion, an OIG employee placed their hand, instead of the CFD employees’, on the Time Clock’s hand scanner. The Time Clock nevertheless registered the clock-ins as valid. Similarly, OIG had a CPD employee swipe their ID card at a Time Clock at CPD headquarters, also located at 3510 South Michigan. Then, an OIG employee placed their hand on the Time Clock’s scanner instead of the CPD employee. The Time Clock still registered the clock-in as valid. Therefore, for CFD and CPD employees, the hand scan “requirement” currently serves no functional purpose and provides no meaningful deterrent to time falsification.

Based on its findings, OIG recommends that both CFD and CPD require their employees to be enrolled in the biometric component of the City’s timekeeping system. Absent such enrollment, CFD’s and CPD’s current directives are pointless, and there is an obvious risk that does not comport with the City’s expressed interest in reducing time falsification and absenteeism.