UK Police Conclude Series of Live Facial Recognition Trials

The Metropolitan Police is deploying live facial recognition technology in Romford town centre in East London today, February 14, as the final part of the police service’s trial of the technology. The deployment will run for about six hours.

The Met committed to carrying out 10 deployments as part of the live facial recognition trial. Nine have already taken place. As with all previous deployments, the technology will be used overtly with a clear uniformed presence and information leaflets will be distributed to the public. Posters with information about the technology will also be displayed in the area.

The technology is being used in Romford as part of the Met’s ongoing efforts to reduce crime in the area, with a specific focus on tackling violence. All the faces on the database to be used during the deployment are of people wanted by the Met and the courts. While anyone who declines to be scanned will not necessarily be viewed as suspicious, officers will use their judgement to identify any potential suspicious behaviour.

If the technology generates an alert of a match, police officers on the ground will review it and further checks will be carried out to confirm the identity of the individual.

While the Met has been developing this technology, engagement has been carried out with a number of stakeholders.

The strategic lead for live facial technology for the Met, Detective Chief Superintendent Ivan Balhatchet, said: “The Met is currently developing the use of live facial recognition and our trial period is coming to an end. Following the final deployment this week, a full independent evaluation of the deployments and the technology itself will commence.

“Tackling violent crime is a key priority for the Met and we are determined to use all emerging technology available to support standard policing activity and help protect our communities. The technology being tested in this trial is developing all the time and has the potential to be invaluable to day-to-day policing.

“We continue to engage with many different stakeholders, some who actively challenge our use of this technology. In order to show transparency and continue constructive debate, we have invited individuals and groups with varying views on our use of facial recognition technology to this deployment.”

A trial of the technology in Romford on January 31 trial was originally planned to extend into February 1 but was postponed until February 14 due to adverse weather. As a direct result of the January 31 deployment, a 35 year old man was arrested on suspicion on breach of a molestation order. He was subsequently charged and sentenced to 11 weeks’ imprisonment. A 17-year-old male was arrested on suspicion of discharging a firearm and has been released under investigation; two youths were arrested on suspicion of robbery and have been released under investigation; and two men aged 46 and 25 were arrested on suspicion of possession of drugs were dealt with via a community resolution.

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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