Met develops mobile fingerprint device

The Metropolitan Police Service has become the first British police force to develop its own mobile fingerprint device in a move that will save both officer time and public money.

The mobile biometric device, named INK Biometrics (Identity Not Known), scans suspects’ fingerprints and will confirm their identity within 60 seconds if they are known to police databases. This allows faster apprehension of wanted offenders and by removing the need to return to base will keep officers out on the streets for longer.

Although similar technology has been used by the Met and other forces since 2012, the new kit is cheaper, which allows six times as many devices to be deployed – 600 devices will now be rolled out to frontline officers across London in the next six months.

Fingerprints are only taken where there is legal cause under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act but by giving more officers access to this technology it will reduce the need for suspects to be taken to police stations to have their identity checked. This will also free up limited custody space for offenders who do require detention.

The portable device comprises of software produced by Met staff, used on an Android smartphone handset and paired with a Crossmatch fingerprint reader. The device securely communicates with the Home Office developed Biometric Services Gateway (BSG), which searches the Criminal Records Office and immigration enforcement databases. If a suspect has a criminal record or is known to immigration enforcement their identity can be confirmed at the roadside and an officer, with relevant access levels, can also use the device to check the Police National Computer to establish if they are currently wanted for any outstanding offences. All fingerprints taken on the device are deleted automatically once the officer logs off the device.

Met officers and staff took the innovative step of developing their own product and software when it became clear that doing so could significantly increase the number of devices (fewer than 100 in recent years) at a much reduced cost. INK will save an estimated £200,000 in support costs per annum.

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said, “I have always been clear in my ambition to make the best possible use of technology to fight crime. The speed of analysis of information that this device will offer, will drive effectiveness and efficiency and allow officers to spend more time in our communities and fighting crime.

“This new technology was developed from the ground up with the full involvement of our officers and as we move forward we need more people like them, to join us with their tech savvy, innovative thinking. I hope this shows potential officer recruits that policing is fully embracing the digital age and that they can be part of an exciting future.”

The in-house system has been built and tested by the Met’s Digital Policing division and the Transformation Directorate. The devices are designed to be simple to use and rechargeable in a police vehicle.