The use of biometrics in law enforcement has a long history. In the early 1900s, police officers began using fingerprint evidence to help investigations. Since then, increasingly sophisticated technologies have expanded how biometric data enables law enforcement to help build an evidentiary case against suspects. As biometric technologies continue to advance, law enforcement agencies create and benefit from databases that combine facial recognition with traditional fingerprint and palmprint data to aid in investigations.

How is facial recognition used in law enforcement?

Facial recognition technology (FRT) compares photographs or video of a person with facial images against others from a database. These technologies enable law enforcement to close open cases more rapidly by providing the potential to help trace someone’s activities and locations.

Some examples of use cases include comparing a:

  • Suspect’s picture to ATM videos when tracking down fraudsters
  • Known or suspected terrorist’s photo to police camera video
  • A kidnapping victim’s picture to closed-circuit security footage

While talking to people who may have seen a suspect or victim remains valuable, people’s memories are notoriously inconsistent. Facial recognition technology supplements these testimonies with facial recognition evidence.