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Police tech agency rewinds on smartphone CCTV

BlackBerrys for boys in blue?

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The organisation responsible for guiding the police on their use of technology has downplayed reports that its chief executive reckons cops would be using smartphones to check fingerprints and CCTV footage by 2012.

The chief executive of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) reportedly told journalists in the House of Commons this week that police would soon be using Blackberry-type devices to take suspects' fingerprints, to view images of criminals from the Police National Computer, and view CCTV images.

Currently officers have to return to their police station to complete any of those tasks.

Peter Neyroud was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying police chiefs wanted the devices deployed in time for the London Olympics in 2012.

A spokesperson for the NPIA confirmed that the organisation was considering such capabilities, but played down the comments.

"It certainly would be useful," the spokesperson said, but added a note of caution: "It's not a definite."

She suggested that 2012 would be a "very good milestone" to get the police mobile strategy ironed out, but she said she was not aware of any specific reason why that deadline would have to be met.

Were police to be allowed to be given access to CCTV on their mobile devices, it would mean a huge extension to the country's CCTV network, which is already growing rapidly. It would also require a leap in centralization, as most CCTV cameras are privately owned operated.

UK citizens already face one of the highest levels of surveillance in the world.

The Police and the Home Office revealed joint plans in October to tie together CCTV systems from across the country to create one national surveillance network. With that network in place, it would be possible to extend access to police officers on their mobile devices.

The NPIA has been awarded £50m by the Prime Minister to get mobile devices into the hands of the police.

It's now down to the Association to decide how to do it. ®

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