Welsh Forces trial facial recognition app

Officers from South Wales Police and Gwent Police are undertaking a three-month pilot of real-time facial recognition app technology.

The Operator Initiated Facial Recognition system claims to enable officers to confirm the identity of a wanted suspect “almost instantly, even if that suspect provides false or misleading details”. Up to 70 officers across the two Forces will use the technology as part of the trial.

South Wales Police said they also hope that cases of mistaken identity will be resolved without the need for a trip to a police station or custody suite through use of the technology.

Assistant chief constable Mark Travis of South Wales Police said: “This new app means that with the taking of a single photograph which is then compared to the police database, officers can easily and quickly answer the question of ‘Are you really the person we are looking for?’.

“When dealing with a person of interest during their patrols in our communities, officers will be able to access instant information allowing them to identify whether the person stopped is, or is not, the person they need to speak to, without having to return to a police station.

“I want to stress that this new technology doesn’t replace traditional means of identifying people and that our police officers will only be using the new technology in instances where it is both necessary and proportionate to do so with, as always, the end goal of keeping that particular individual, or the wider public, safe.”

The pilot marks the first use of technology to identify wanted individuals in real time by a UK police force and builds on existing use of retrospective facial recognition (RFR) technology. Last year, the Metropolitan Police Service began the operational use of NEC’s Live Facial Recognition (LFR) technology. RFR technology compares still images of faces of unknown people against a reference image database in order to identify them after an event.