Met Police rolls out new fingerprint scanners to identify suspects on street amid backlash

New fingerprint scanners are set to be rolled out across London, giving Met Police officers greater power than ever to identify members of the public in the street.

A number of forces have used similar devices since 2012 but the UK's largest police force has developed its own technology , dropping the cost so it can roll out six times as many scanners in the field.

The cheaper product means that 600 of the Met's 30,000 officers can run a suspect's fingerprint across police databases in under a minute.

Privacy campaigners have warned against the new technology and said the "pervasive identity checking" should be very concerning for the public.

The mobile biometric device, known as an INK device (Identity Not Known), plugs into a smartphone and can check a suspect's prints across police databases without the need to go to a police station.

A Met spokesman said: "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."

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."

Superintendent Adrian Hutchinson, leading the project, said: “If police stop a driver for a traffic violation but the driver has no documents on him and the car is registered to another person officers may not be happy that the name given is correct.

"INK can allow them to confirm the identity to allow the service of a summons, rather than arrest them and take them to a police station where they then confirm their identity. Also, if the person is wanted for other offences, this device will allow us to establish this at the point they are stopped."

Silkie Carlo, Director of Big Brother Watch, said:“The growth of border-style security on our streets should be cause for concern to all of us. That police can now stop and scan people’s fingerprints to check their immigration status is the modern equivalent of being asked to show your papers.

"This tool clearly risks being applied disproportionately to ethnic minorities who have been over-policed for far too long. If there is reason to believe someone has both committed an offence and is lying about their identity, they should be taken to a police station, read their rights, and dealt with properly.”

In February the Home Office said it expected around 20 forces to be using a new mobile fingerprint scanning system by the end of the year.

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