UK beat police will have access to national mugshot database
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On 18 March 2008, Peter Neyroud, the chief executive of the UK National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA), told the Commons Home Affairs Committee, during the final evidence session of a year-long inquiry on the surveillance society, that the police was developing a national database of mugshots to be used with face recognition technology that would match CCTV images with offenders.
A pilot system has started with three local police forces that have gathered during the last 18 months a database including more than 750 000 face images. About 7.7 million euro has been allocated so far on developing the technology that will be nationally launched in 2009.
Neyroud stated that he hoped to have the beat police equipped with advanced personal organizers by 2012 London Olympics. The systems will allow them to access local CCTV cameras, take and transmit fingerprints and download mugshots and other details such as scars or tattoos from the police national computer system.
The police are also developing a "behavioural matching" software using CCTV images in order to trace odd behaviours in a crowd. Neyroud stated that it will be useful in dealing with street crime and terrorism. He also stated: "The proliferation of CCTV cameras in the UK - with about one for every 14 people - means that we are now accustomed to our movements being monitored in this way and for most people this is not an issue."
On the same occasion, Tony McNulty, the Home Office Minister told the committee that he opposed the extension of UK DNA database to "non-recordable" crimes as some police chiefs have asked for fingerprints taken from minor offenders (such as those dropping litter for instance) to be introduced into the database. McNulty considered that the present system, which includes details of about 4 million people having been arrested but not necessarily charged, provided a correct balance between security issues and human rights. Also, in his opinion, the fears of a surveillance big brother type of society were overrated. "The idea of big brother or big sister sitting on everybody's shoulder makes great copy for the newspapers but it is simply not the case" he stated.
Police trying out national database with 750,000 mugshots, MPs told
Police on beat look for database access(19.03.2008)