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Kalispell business offers fingerprinting services

by ELSA ERICKSEN Daily Inter Lake
| March 10, 2024 12:00 AM

Former police officer Jerie Betschart spent more than a decade fingerprinting for the Kalispell Police Department, and after retiring at the end of 2023, she saw a need in the community to provide that service.

Along with her husband, Roger Betschart, and friends Cliff and Melody Tucker, Betschart opened Flathead Fingerprinting in July 2023. 

The tiny office located on Second Street East barely has enough room for a desk, scanning machine, and printer, but lack of space has not stopped Flathead Fingerprinting from steadily increasing in business, in large part owing to the fact that they are the only private entity to offer fingerprinting services in the Flathead Valley. 

Now, with several months under their belts, Jerie says they are ready for word to get out about the essential services they are providing to the community.

Flathead Fingerprinting primarily focuses on fingerprinting services for background checks, although they also provide notary services and plan to offer passport photos in the coming months. 

The majority of people who come to Flathead Fingerprinting need prints for employment, with jobs from the medical field to teaching to security including such requirements. Local police departments have typically been the ones to provide fingerprinting services, but even as more jobs require fingerprinting, police departments are scaling back the services they provide to the public.

Melody Tucker said the business has been able to accommodate people fairly quickly.

“I know that some of the problems in the past have been people waiting two or three weeks to get in to get fingerprinted, and we’re usually able to get people in in a day or two,” Tucker said. “Our availability is certainly more flexible.”

Waiting weeks or even months for fingerprints and potentionally suffer from further delays in the employment process is something that their customers might have typically faced without the service. 

The experience of the owners make a difference in the process. 

Jerie and Roger moved to the Flathead Valley in 1999 to work for the Kalispell Police Department. Roger worked as a jailer and Jerie did fingerprints for 10 years. Through the years, the couple has learned the nuances of fingerprinting and know the best ways to deal with tricky cases.

“Taking fingerprints isn’t very easy when you consider that some people are laborers that use their hands, so they burn their fingerprints, and they seem to disappear as people get older. Corn Huskers oil on the fingertips seems to bring the prints out. If a person drinks water and is well hydrated their fingerprints are better,” Roger said.

Throughout her time at the police department, Jerie saw the need for fingerprinting services, and began to think about starting her own business.

“I had this idea for years, and Cliff kept trying to convince me to do it, and after I retired I decided I was ready. This is the first business I’ve ever owned, and I’m enjoying it.”

The Tuckers, who are now learning how to fingerprint as well, are primarily responsible for the operations of the growing business. Flathead Fingerprinting has plans to provide more services in the future as part of their goal to fulfill unmet needs in the community. With people coming from as far away as Libby and Missoula, the company sees a variety of opportunities for expansion.

“One of our dreams would be to expand to different locations, so you have someone a little more towards out of the way places, and it’s just more accessible to be able to service this part of our state because we know there aren’t places that do it without having to wait a long time,” said Melody.

They also hope to provide more traveling services with a portable scanner, Roger explained.

“We want to travel to colleges and fingerprint students graduating from nursing or medical school, like the nursing class at Flathead Valley Community College, and save them the necessity of having to come to us,” he said. 

For both couples, helping the people of the Flathead Valley and building relationships with people who are as unique as their fingerprints has been the best part of the business. 

“When we were starting, our first customer was a doctor,” Roger said. “We were having issues with the computer, and she was the most patient and most kind person."

Melody echoed the sentiment.

“It’s been a lot of fun to meet the different kinds of people that we do because they are from all realms,” she said. “Meeting the people in our valley has been really great. You find that people are just really kind. We still have a good community.”

Flathead Fingerprinting is located at 17 Second Street East, Suite 206, Kalispell. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday by appointment, with off hours options available. To schedule an appointment, book at https://www.flatheadfingerprinting.com or call (406) 405-0168. 

Reporter Elsa Ericksen can be reached at eericksen@dailyinterlake.com.