South Wales Police deployed Live Facial Recognition technology on Saturday 19th March, from midday until 5pm in Cardiff City Centre.
This was a trial deployment of the Live Facial Recognition technology on a busy day in the city centre. It supported an independent evaluation in response to a Court of Appeal judgement in 2020, which highlighted a small number of policy areas which needed to be explored and resolved.
During the trial, which utilised a watchlist of specific suspects, three positive identifications were made resulting in two arrests – one of the suspects was for an assault on a police custody officer and the other for failing to appear at court for a public order offence. A third man wanted for breaching a supervision order ran off from the area on seeing police officers.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Travis said: “We are using Facial Recognition Technology to protect the public and keep them safe by assisting us to identify serious offenders on our streets. I am pleased that two offenders were identified and subsequently arrested during this trial, with one of those being arrested for an offence of assault. The trial identified three positive matches which were verified by officers and notably did not falsely identify anyone. The trial will enable us to strengthen our operational policies and improve public confidence in the use of this technology, as the testing is designed to withstand the most robust legal challenge and public scrutiny”.
“All deployments are subject to scrutiny by the Police & Crime Commissioner who has set a clear expectation that operational decisions balance the need to protect the public and the need to protect civil liberties. The Chief Constable has made clear his requirement for that balance to be achieved in operational decision-making.”
South Wales Police will continue to test the system to ensure there is no risk of breaching equality requirements through bias or discrimination. There will be with further trial deployments over the coming months and strict scrutiny of the operational decisions taken.
Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael said: “I maintain close scrutiny of the operational decisions on the introduction of technology and subject each new step to independent oversight and scrutiny because of the ethical and social concerns that have been expressed over the use of facial recognition technology. From the start there has been close scrutiny and discussion between me and the Chief Constable to ensure that the right balance is maintained between protecting the public and protecting civil liberties. For me that is a basic principle of our approach to policing. People want to know that members of the public who have done nothing wrong are not being subjected to inappropriate surveillance and that their privacy and anonymity will be respected and protected. However, people also want us to keep them safe and to use the technology to apprehend people who have committed serious offences and take them off the streets. As a result of the robust systems of scrutiny and challenge in place in South Wales I can assure the public that we are getting that balance right. We are committed to protecting human rights as well as keeping the public safe.
“Police officers have always been able to spot or recognise a person who they know – or think they know - is wanted for a crime and stop them in the street. The difference with the use of this technology is the speed and accuracy with which the individual can be identified and arrested and the speed with which a mistaken identity can be cleared up.
“The principles and practices that we apply are also subject to scrutiny by the Ethics Committee, made up of external experts from academia and from the public and private sectors”