Busted: the NSW Police crime fighting toolkit

State-wide background checks, facial recognition, faster forensics

NSW Police will have access to a new forensic information database within nine months along with a suite of centralised records management and field imaging systems.

The state police force of 19500 officers is the biggest in the country and one of the largest in the world.

A spate of state-wide IT projects are rolling out and are already available across the command, including facial recognition system which this year has made 17,169 matches from 2.8 million stored images; Field ID which completed a rollout of 500 mobile fingerprint devices last week; the National Police Reference System including its Web-based Intranet Person Inquiry System available in June to interstate officers for real-time criminal checks; and the Forensic Services Digital Imaging project which issued police with a fleet of Nikon digital cameras for facial recognition and background checks in the field.

NSW Police assistant commissioner and director of the forensic services group Carlene York said the Forensic Information Management System has been under production for a decade and will save crucial time for forensic officers and detectives.

"It will reduce DNA backlogs with [forensic officers] and remove a lot of paper work required by police to request for forensic information," York said.

"Police investigators will be able to track and monitor forensic jobs. It will give more data to investigators and they will have a stronger briefs and achieve longer custodies."

Offenders often were acquitted of some suspected crimes because of the difficulty in collating evidence when it is not known that particular criminal acts are related, York said.

The state-wide database will link ballistics to forensics to make it easier for investigators to link known offences to suspects and build stronger convictions.

Victorian IT company Hardcat scored the contract and has delivered on time and on budget, York said.

Offenders will be less able to skip court under the Field ID system, according to York, which captures a digital fingerprint of suspects in the field and cross-references images to the near-completed National Police Reference System hosted in the Sydney Police headquarters. The system, developed over five years, delivers an identity confirmation within 90 seconds based on two index and two thumb prints.

"Previously if we didn't have [an offender's] fingerprints and they skipped court, it was hard to trace them," York said.

NSW Police has trained 7500 officers in the use of the Forensic Services Digital Imaging system and the corresponding Digital Images Management System, including legislation forbidding use of the system to do background checks on non-suspects.

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