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Cheshire police rolling out facial recognition technology

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Stock image of a CCTV camera. (Joe Gadd)

Facial recognition is to be rolled out by police in Cheshire as the force stressed there were “no plans” to use the more contentious “live” version.

The constabulary said it will be using retrospective (RFR) and operator initiated (OIFR) forms of the technology in a first for the county.

A Cheshire police spokesman said RFR is used during investigations after an incident has taken place and checks a still image of an unknown face against images on the Police National Database and custody photographs in a bid to identify them.

Officers can then use this information to advance their investigations and “bring more offenders to justice”.

OIFR is available for officers in the street or roadside and checks a person’s face in real time against an image database, such as when a person is believed to have provided false details and cannot provide identification.

It can also be used if someone can’t provide their details because they are unconscious, seriously injured or are incapable due to drink or drugs.

The spokesman said a trial undertaken by the county’s Roads and Crime Unit made use of a phone application version of OIFR.

He said anyone whose image isn’t on the police database cannot be identified through means of facial recognition technology in Cheshire.

Examples of how the technology might be used on the constabulary’s website include: a shoplifter filmed on CCTV stealing from stores across Cheshire; checking the face of someone filmed on a doorbell camera during a burglary; and a suspect refuses to provide details to officers.

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The spokesman said the constabulary has “no plans” to adopt live facial recognition.

According to the College of Policing, LFR is when a live camera feed or multiple feeds checks passing faces against a “predetermined watchlist, in order to locate persons of interest by generating an alert when a possible match is found”.

Assistant Chief Constable Matt Welsted said: “Facial recognition is the latest capability that is provided to officers to improve our response in achieving justice more efficiently and making the county a hostile place for criminals to operate.

“Facial recognition will not replace traditional means in identifying those who have committed a crime but adds to our arsenal and modernising the capability of our frontline.

“It’s important to remember that officers have always been able to spot a person who is wanted for a crime and stop them in the street but with this technology, we will be able to increase the speed and accuracy in the way in which this can be done – and dismissed efficiently.

“This technology will allow us to prevent harm and help those in need in our community and it is just one of the other ways in which we are arming ourselves to target known offenders who are intent on committing crime in Cheshire.”

Visit cheshire.police.uk for more information about facial recognition technology’s use in Cheshire.

Read more news from Runcorn and Widnes, Cheshire, here.

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