Cops Getting Smart with Smartphones

MORISIt’s all well and good for us citizens to snap photos of crimes with our mobile phones and send them on to the police. But do our law enforcement agencies take advantage of portable web-enabled devices? Not usually, according to Officer Kenric Wu of the San Marino, Calif. police department. “We use our investigative skills & experience to solve the bulk of the crimes we deal with,” not smartphones or web-based apps. Although he notes, “This is changing though as law enforcement embraces new technology and thinking.”

An example of this change is a new smartphone application and device called MORIS (Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System) from Massachusetts-based BI2 Technologies ( MORIS fits on to a standard iPhone (and soon on Android phones). Officers can use it to snap a photo of a suspect and send it to a facial recognition database right from the scene. They can scan a suspect’s fingerprint and run it for matches. They can even scan a person’s eyeball and send that in for iris pattern recognition.

How a New Police Tool for Face Recognition Works

Emily Steel of the Wall Street Journal explains how MORIS works. Its biometric recognition functions are linked to a national database of criminal records. The hope is that MORIS will not only make policing more efficient, but will also help to identify accident victims and disoriented people.

The drawbacks? These new MORIS phones currently cost $3000 per unit. Also, their biometric-based identification capabilities raise questions about law enforcement violation of privacy and infringement of civil liberties.

Still, it seems that handheld mobile recognition technology will increasingly find its way into police work.


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