Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Need To Identify A Suspect? There's An App For That!

Apparently these days there really is an app for everything.  And yes, there is an app to help you identify suspects that you either have in custody or are planning to take into custody...well, sort of.

MORIS (Mobile Offender Recognition and Identification System) originally released in the summer of 2010.  At that time it was being utilized on an iPhone-like device to a small handful of police departments, the first of which was Brockton Police Department in Massachusetts.  Since its original (and controversial) release, MORIS has become more popular and is slowly eliminating the 'old-fashioned' version of taking digital photos of a subject and then downloading them onto a computer used for facial recognition.  The MORIS device now attaches to the back of an iPhone, adding roughly 1.75 inches to the thickness of the smartphone.  The cost of each device is approximately $3,000.

How Does It Work: 
Iris Scanning:  To scan a person’s iris, police officers can hold the special iris-scanning camera on device, called MORIS, about 5 to 6 inches away from an individual’s irises. After snapping a high resolution photo, the MORIS system analyzes 235 unique features in each iris and uses an algorithm to match that person with their identity if they are in the database.
Facial Recognition:  For the facial recognition, an officer takes a photo of a person at a distance of about 2 feet to 5 feet. Based on technologies from Animetrics Inc., the system analyzes about 130 distinguishing points on the face, such as the distance between a person’s eye and nose. It then scans the database for likely matches.

Fingerprint Scanning:  The MORIS device also comes equipped with a finger print scanner that can scan a single finger print within seconds and then comb the database looking for suitable matches.

Although there has been some controversy in regards to MORIS, the facial recognition technology requires a frontal facial image taken from close proximity.  In other words, it requires consent. Iris scans are practically impossible without the subject’s cooperation, as are fingerprint scans. Besides, the alternative when a police officer can’t confirm a suspect’s identity is generally a trip downtown to sort it out. MORIS simplifies that process.

The systems do link to a national database that is maintained BI2 Technologies, the makers of MORIS.  However, many of the departments that are utilizing this system have also begun to develop smaller databases on department computer systems that directly affect their departments.  Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonald, who has been building a database of inmates for several years, says he hopes to have fingerprint matching capabilities in the field over the next couple of months. He sees the system as a way of improving public safety while reducing costs.  He plans to use the one he has now in his gang unit to assist in the identification of known gang members. 

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