With the snap of an iPhone camera, one police department is identifying suspects on the go.
Using an app called MORIS (Mobile Offender Recognition and Identification System), the police department in Brockton, Massachusetts is matching photos of suspects with a database in development by statewide sheriff’s departments.
Sean Mullin, president and CEO of BI2 Technologies of Plymouth who developed the app, explained that the app allows officers to identify suspects through facial recognition, iris biometrics and fingerprints – all on one device.
MORIS may be a quick, easy way to ID perps, but it isn’t cheap. Each iPhone loaded up with the app costs $3,000. These aren’t regular, off-the-shelf iPhones but augmented devices (considerably bulkier than what you’d find in a store and what could easily fit in a pocket) with super-sized batteries as well as some extra hardware.
During the testing phase, police have access to the facial recognition software but the system will later include both iris and fingerprint recognition. Brockton is using a federal grant to pay for the experimental program.
The first devices will be used by the gang unit until more grant money can be obtained to equip the rest of the force. In total, about $150,000 in grant money will be used in 28 police departments and 14 sheriffs departments across the state.
Police Chief William Conlan explained the advantages in a video interview,”This is something that the officers can actually access when they’re out on the road, so they don’t have to bring somebody back here to figure out who they are.”
Conlan also said that police officers will not be randomly stopping people for ID checks, but will only snap people who have done something, “only when we have probable cause.”
Other police forces are anxious to see how MORIS will fare. Sheriff Greg Solano of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department in New Mexico told newspapers he “can’t wait” to get the new portable system. His department has been using has been using BI2 Technologies’ Sex Offender Registry and Identification System (SORIS) technology for a year to track sex offenders and more recently to create a database of people who have been booked for any crime.
The system has turbo-charged identification times: what used to take from two to six weeks is now immediate, even if the suspects don’t tell the truth about who they are or were booked under a different name.
“We really are very impressed with it,” he said.
This is the latest in a growing number of iPhone apps designed to make the work of police officers easier and faster. Recent examples include an app used by cops in Australia to check car and license registration on the go and one US college where police are monitoring security cam footage from their iPhones.