- Officers who find a match can obtain details and information about the suspect
Police chiefs plan to roll out technology that will allow officers to take photos of suspects on their mobile phones and then, within seconds, search for matches among millions of criminals stored in their database.
The controversial application known as Operator-Initiated Facial Recognition (OIFR) has already been tested by three police forces using software called iPatrol.
Last night the National Police Chiefs’ Council said it wants to roll out the technology nationally by next year.
However, trials by South Wales, Gwent and Cheshire Police proved controversial because the app was used to identify dead bodies.
Privacy group Big Brother Watch called the software “Orwellian” and its use to identify corpses “appalling.”
Jeremy Vaughan, chief constable of South Wales Police, which is a national leader in facial recognition, praised the technology.
The controversial app known as Operator-Initiated Facial Recognition (OIFR) has already been tested by three police forces using software called iPatrol
He said: “It could reduce the time it takes to identify a criminal from days and months to just minutes.”
“But we recognize the need to balance the use of new technologies with the right to privacy.”
South Wales and Gwent Police jointly tested the OIFR software for three months.
Officers who find a match can then retrieve all personal details and intelligence about the suspect in the Police National Computer database.
This also applies to whether they are wanted for other crimes or are perpetrators of violence.
A facial recognition app has been deployed by South Wales Police officers on at least 42 occasions, leading to 20 arrests.
In 16 cases, the app failed to find a match, four searches were abandoned and two others were marked as incomplete.
Thanks to the application, the police identified one missing person and two bodies.
Data from South Wales also showed that use of the app was disproportionately targeted at ethnic minorities – almost 31 per cent of people photographed were black or Asian, while the ethnic minority population in South Wales is just 8.5 per cent.
A spokeswoman for Big Brother Watch said: “Operator-initiated facial recognition puts Orwellian surveillance technology in the pockets of police officers.”