London police to use facial recognition solution to combat serious crime


The Metropolitan Police Service in London has announced its intention to deploy live facial recognition (LFR) technology in an operational context.

According to the Met,the solution will be used to “try and locate wanted people,” in order to help tackle serious crime, including child sexual exploitation, and gun and knife crime. Its use will be “intelligence-led,” with each deployment based on a bespoke ‘watch list’ consisting of images of suspects.

Speaking of the roll-out, a spokesperson for the Met said: “This is not a case of technology taking over from traditional policing. It is a system which simply gives police officers a ‘prompt.’ It is always the decision of an officer whether or not to engage with someone. 

“At a deployment, cameras will be focused on a small, targeted area to scan passers-by. The cameras will be clearly signposted, and officers deployed to the operation will hand out leaflets about the activity. The technology, which is a standalone system, is not linked to any other imaging system, such as CCTV, body worn video or ANPR.”

Met assistant commissioner Nick Ephgrave, said: “As a modern police force, I believe that we have a duty to use new technologies to keep people safe in London. Independent research has shown that the public support us in this regard.

“Prior to deployment we will be engaging with our partners and communities at a local level. We are using a tried-and-tested technology and have taken a considered and transparent approach in order to arrive at this point. Every day, our police officers are briefed about suspects they should look out for, and LFR improves the effectiveness of this tactic.”

Previous use of facial recognition technology by other UK police forces such as South Wales has attracted a certain amount of controversy, specifically in relation to potential issues around privacy. Issuing a statement on the subject last November, the UK Information Commissioners Office warned of the potential for "widespread invasiveness" and called for a new code of practice in regard to the technology.  

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Philip Mason
Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio
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