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UK police promise more fingerprint matching, facial recognition in efficiency revamp

UK police promise more fingerprint matching, facial recognition in efficiency revamp
 

Biometrics, automation, and drones are a part of the United Kingdom’s new plan to transform policing.

Gavin Stephens, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) laid out a new direction for the police force on Wednesday citing several key areas for improvement. Aside from increasing effectiveness, training and financial resilience, the plan includes ramping up innovation, according to an announcement from the NPCC.

Stephens said there were four technological projects underway to improve policing. The first one is a new digital fingerprint-matching system that will speed up the process by three days on average and increase fingerprint hits by 50 percent by fiscal year 2025 and 2026.

The police also plan to take advantage of facial recognition technology. A South Wales Police study found that retrospective facial recognition helps them identify 200 suspects every month, Stephens said.

Another part of the revamp will be automating administrative tasks, a project that has received £1.8 million (US$2.2 million) in funding, and further support for the police national drone program. UK police currently operate 400 UAVs across all forces.

The NPCC also plans to launch a new dedicated Science and Technology Committee.

“Collectively, I’d like to work with you to make the case, that policing should be a primary place for deployment of the very best that UK Science and Technology has to offer,” says Chief Constable Stephens, who was named as NPPC chief in March.

The UK police have been ramping up the use of facial recognition despite criticism from civil liberties groups, experts and some lawmakers.

In October, Policing Minister Chris Philp called for expanding the use of live facial recognition to deter crime while in September, the London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley hailed the technology as a tool that will transform investigative work. The police in Scotland recently released data showing it has tripled the use of retrospective facial recognition over the last five years.

In September, the police launched Project Pegasus, a US$752,000 police operation supported by British retailers to match CCTV images of shoplifters with those in a national police database.

The UK Home Office’s biometrics and surveillance commissioner, Fraser Sampson slammed police use of facial recognition over unresolved legal issues in October.

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