Lord Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, has commented that the current Stop and Search procedures used by the police service could be improved if officers were allowed to use facial recognition cameras as an integral part of the process.
Speaking to presenter Nick Ferrari on LBC this morning, Hogan-Howe – who was in charge of the Met from 2011 through until 2017 having been chief constable of Merseyside Police for six years from 2004 – stated: “Stop and Search can be improved in at least two ways. One of them involves technology. At the moment, the technology involved is in the Dark Ages. It’s wands and it’s arches. Police officers canot carry that lot around with them. They need to have clever stuff they can take with them, so it’s behavioural sciences and facial recognition.”
One of the initiatives that Hogan-Howe introduced before he left the Metropolitan Police Service was to make sure that all serving officers had access to body-worn video cameras. “That’s just a camera and a microphone,” said Hogan-Howe, “but what you can eventually do is add more software. The Government should be saying to the Department for Science and Technology that it wants it back within the Home Office and not as part of the Ministry of Defence. Also, what technology is being developed to find knives? It cannot be about asking people to walk through an arch in the middle of a town centre because that isn’t going to work. What we cannot do is remain using the technology that we already have.”
Lord Hogan-Howe has also demanded an immediate increase to the nation’s depleted policing numbers. He feels that the Government needs to put 20,000 officers back on Britain’s streets to tackle the knife crime epidemic. Last month, Home Secretary Sajid Javid admitted that there had been a 19% cut in police funding and that police numbers had fallen by about 21,000 across England and Wales.
In response, Zak Doffman, CEO of Digital Barriers, commented: “Body-worn cameras have already seen mass adoption within policing, and facial recognition is the obvious next step for how we can enhance modern front line policing. Stop and Search is an immensely effective tactic that can take weapons off the street and lead to the arrests of those in possession. However, it’s important that it’s used in a targeted fashion and that any searches have appropriate justification. Facial recognition enables a live identity confirmation so that known offenders and persons of interest can be quickly identified. It also builds-in an additional safeguard against racial bias as policies can be set to prevent officers searching those not identified against an existing ‘Watchlist’. It’s precisely this kind of safeguarding that will help prompt broader adoption.”