London Police Get Mobile Fingerprint Scanners
May 24, 2012

London Police Get Mobile Fingerprint Scanners

London´s Metropolitan Police Service (MET) will be equipping their officers with mobile fingerprint scanners to use on those suspected of criminal charges.

Scotland Yard has already distributed 350 of these mobile scanners, which are about the size of a cell phone, to officers all over London.

With this technology, officers can also check the identity of unconscious or fatal victims at accidents.

The MET is the 25th police force in the UK to implement these mobile identification devices (MobileID) since they were launched by the National Policing and Improvement Agency (NPIA) last year. Police forces in England and Wales have already been using the MobileID units since they were launched.

"Mobile Identification is a technological step forward that helps police officers identify people quickly," assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said in a statement, according to ZDNet, "Evidence has shown that a full identification arrest can tie-up both the subject and the police officer for several hours. Even a traditional identity check conducted on the street can take an extended period of time to complete."

By contrast, identity checks with the MobileID system only take between 30 seconds and 2 minutes.

The entire system works by capturing a fingerprint on the MobileID device. Then, the biometric data captured is then sent via Bluetooth to the officer´s issued BlackBerry device. The phone then transfers the data to Ident1, UK´s national fingerprint database. Once the biometric data has been used, it is then discarded.

The Met hopes that equipping their officers with these MobileID units will reduce the number of trips they have to take to the station, freeing them up to spend more time on the streets.

"MobileID is effective particularly in revealing serious and violent offenders who will do everything they can to prevent the police from knowing their true identities," Rowley continued in his statement.  "This technology means there is increased officer time spent on patrol, and as a result, helps to make communities safer."

According to the Guardian, the NPIA signed a contract with 3M Cogent in 2010 to manufacture these MobileID fingerprinting devices. Before this deal was signed, 28 police forces field-tested these MobileID units to discover how they functioned in an operational environment. For example, these devices were tested during roadside checks in Notting Hill and during last summer´s Royal Wedding.

These MobileID units are just one arm of a wider plan of the NPIA announced last July.

The Met is also testing out another piece of technology which can extract call logs, contact information and even text messages from the handsets of those in custody.

Unlike the MobileID units, police capture and store this data.

"When a suspect is arrested and found with a mobile phone that we suspect may have been used in crime, traditionally we submit it to our digital forensic laboratory for analysis," said deputy assistant commissioner Stephen Kavanagh, according to the BBC.

"Therefore, a solution located within the boroughs that enables trained officers to examine devices and gives immediate access to the data in that handset is welcomed."

London will be hosting the 2012 summer Olympics from July 27 to August 12.