Police fingerprint devices cause civil rights fears
19 July 2011
Civil liberty campaigners have expressed concern about fingerprint identification technology being rolled out to police forces across the country.
Already deployed with more than half of the forces in England and Wales, the new devices will give police officers the ability to check an individual's identity whilst on the beat within two minutes, according to the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA).
Using the new Mobile Identification (MobileID) service, officers will be able to scan individuals' fingerprints during their patrol and check scans against a national fingerprint database.
"This will enable faster identification of individuals saving the public and police officers time and also help increase the number of offenders who are identified and brought to justice," the NPIA said.Civil rights concerns
Despite the benefits praised by police, campaigners from Justice, a law reform and human rights organisation, said they were wary about police taking fingerprints on the street, arguing that the criminal justice system had existed for centuries without the need for such technology.
"We are extremely concerned about what are essentially biometric checks being carried out on the footpath," a spokesman told Publicservice.co.uk.
He added that the use of such technology was not proportionate, and that if police needed to take fingerprints in the course of their investigation it should be done at the police station.Police benefits
But police have argued that the technology could actually help to improve levels of public confidence, that devices could save at least 30 minutes per case where used, that the technology could be used to identify unconscious or fatal victims at a crime or accident scene.
Tom McArthur, NPIA director of operations said: "Identification is crucial to police investigations and giving officers the ability to do this on-the-spot within minutes is giving them more time to spend working in their communities, helping to fight crime, bringing more offenders to justice and better protecting the public."
And DCC Peter Goodman, the ACPO lead on MobileID, said the technology "will identify offenders, cut down on wasted time in custody suites, enhance officer safety and it will be a powerful tool in the fight against criminals".