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One step forward — right back to square one for Australian cops’ mobile biometric system


It is another reminder, this time from a biometrics system Down Under, that while technology can underperform, it cannot over-promise. It takes a trained marketing professional to over-promise.

Police officials in New South Wales have been chagrined to find out that their officers have little interest in take two of a mobile biometrics system. Since 2018, fingerprints are being captured on new phone-handheld NEC scanners during only about four percent of allowable incidents.

That is not much better than the two percent-to-four percent rate at which officers were scanning prints in the field using the preceding Idemia system, which had reached the end of its effective life. Connectivity problems with that setup reportedly prompted officers to stop using it.

According to a police department audit looking at how well funds are being spent on technology, officers’ experience has convinced most on the force to ignore the new system, too.

This is distressing to department leaders, and not just because of the money wasted. The report says a properly working fingerprint biometric device would increase productivity by acquiring prints in the field and, indeed, beginning the booking process there as well.

Not insignificantly, it would capture larger numbers of prints. Incidents that might not warrant a run downtown could still net new biometric hauls.

Officials tried to increase use by requiring field training before taking out a unit, and intranet guides spotlighting the benefits of using it were posted. These efforts failed, according to the audit, as did attempts to get force supervisors to “champion” the tool.

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