This issue describes the features and benefits of the Pinellas County (Florida) Sheriff's Office's facial recognition system.
Using initial funding provided through the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing, Pinellas County has adapted a facial recognition system that has evolved from a replacement for the county jail's mug shot database into a partnership system that encompasses 14 of the State's 67 counties; it could serve as a model for similar systems in other States. Under the current system, an officer can use a digital camera to take a photo of the face of a driver who has no valid identification documents and provides a false name. The camera with the photo is plugged into the patrol car's laptop, and the computer automatically downloads the image, opens the sheriff's office facial recognition program, converts the image with a binary algorithm, runs a search of the county's database, and produces a gallery of potential matches in less than 30 seconds. This procedure was made possible for patrol cars in 2004. By 2009, deputies had made 496 arrests that could be directly attributed to identifications made by the facial recognition technology and confirmed another 485 identities that did not require arrest. Four of these cases are described in this article. The system also benefits the county's correctional services by ensuring that deputies working in corrections know the correct identities of those they are managing. The database not only establishes identity but also past criminal history, violent tendencies, chemical dependency, and medical conditions.
Date Published: August 1, 2010
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