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West Midlands Police are trialing a system that controls police access to buildings and computer systems using a fingerprint scanner.

Before now this technology has been used mostly in prisons, intelligence HQs, and schools.

West Midlands Police support manager Fred Tracey said the pilot, being implemented by Wetherby firm Enline, uses biometric readers to mark where people are in police buildings and control their access to computer systems.

Imprivata is the only other company to have a single security measure to control access to both places and systems.

Geoff Hogan, senior vice president of business development and product management and marketing at Imprivata, said the system allowed security managers to tell, for example, if someone was in a particular room in a particular building, another person trying access computer systems using their identity from an outside location would be a fraud.

Tracey said the police system will allow security experts to "know exactly where they [police] are in the building".

"But it's not necessarily where they are in the building, it's whether they are somewhere they shouldn't be. It's not big brother, it's managing the life of an individual in West Midlands Police without a bureaucratic overhead."

The pilot would have fingerprint scanners on just a handful of rooms. The police force could extend the scheme by putting more scanners in, or use other methods, such as RFID chips on pass cards, which would allow them to tell where civilian employees were on police premises.

The global positioning system tied into police radios does a similar job.

Tracey said his aim was to make the administration of the police force's security more efficient. He said there had been no data leaks that prompted him to fork out on the system.

"It's about getting more boots on the beat," he said. "We're spending about 10,000 man hours a year managing the system. We reckon we can reduce that by two thirds," he said.

For example, 10 separate directories of access rights are used to restrict the activities of 15,000 people in the West Midlands force to computer applications like the Police National Computer. There's a churn of about 2,000 people a year. ®

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