West Midlands plods get mobile fingerprint tech
Portable mobile dab-slabs lead to Brummie collars felt
West Midlands police is to introduce fingerprint scanning devices, which allow officers to find out if a person is wanted by police or the courts.
The force said it plans to roll out 70 hand-held MobileID devices following a successful pilot of the technology. The devices are satellite-linked to a national fingerprint database and instantly alert officers if the scanned prints belong to a convicted criminal. Police can then cross-reference this information against the Police National Computer.
Police in east Birmingham have been trialling the technology for several months and West Midlands said that the devices have been effective. According to the force, the scanners have cut bureaucracy and saved police time by keeping officers out on the streets, rather than having to put suspects through lengthy custody procedures when it may not be necessary.
During the pilot of the devices, officers in east Birmingham were able to make swift arrests of suspected burglars and people who had failed to turn up for court appearances, said West Midlands.
Darren Walsh, chief inspector at the force, said that the devices mean that suspects cannot try and provide false details about their identity.
"Traditionally, if officers had suspicions about an individual we'd need to take them to a police station, go through the custody process, and fingerprint them at the station which could take hours. The MobileID kits quickly confirm whether an arrest is necessary and frees up officers to be on the streets protecting the public," he said.
The devices are used to check prints against the national database and doesn't permanently store scanned images, the force said. Walsh added that no information is kept for use at a later date.
Mobile is part of the National Policing Improvement Agency's (NPIA) Information Systems Improvement Strategy (ISIS), which aims to transform the way police technology is used and managed nationally. The soon-to-be-abolished agency started making the devices available to police forces in England and Wales in July 2011.
This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.
Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.
If used only in situations where the police would normally have reasonable justification for demanding a person's identity (because they have an interest in a particular person who is on their system), then it is a useful idea.
If used without reasonable suspicion then it is a step towards unacceptable (in the UK at least) demands for ID.
Furthermore, the reports don't state what happens to the print at the server end. If it is stored along with any identity info given, then it is a sneaky expansion of the fingerprint database.
What guarantees do we have...
... that the scanned prints aren't stored, together with time and place and hey, maybe whatever name you give too (soon: a readout of your RFID ID card)? How are they going to show they're living up to the guarantee and what are they guaranteeing with, that is what'll they do if they breached it, in other words, what are their guarantees still worth? Any backing at all?
I don't necessarily object to plod teching up, so to speak, but they haven't been exactly trustworthy in this regard. Nor has the government as a whole for that matter. You can only break so many promises before you're just not being trusted any longer, and for those with a keen insight in tech and privacy, that point is periliously close, unless passed already. Merely promising isn't good enough any longer.
Re: What guarantees do we have...
As soon as the police process your DNA and fingerprints, it's on their database forever. Regardless of whether you've committed a crime or not.
I can see this technology becoming an essential part of any police officers fishing kit.