Police technology is being used to draft frontline officers into the Government’s hostile environment, undermining access to vital police services for countless people, Liberty research has found.
In England and Wales, more than half of police forces have deployed mobile fingerprint scanners – devices that carry out on-the-spot ID checks against immigration databases, turning officers into border guards.
FINGERPRINT SCANNERS HAVE BEEN IN USE FOR YEARS, BUT THE ABILITY TO CARRY OUT AN ON-THE-SPOT CHECK AGAINST THE IMMIGRATION AND ASYLUM BIOMETRIC DATABASE IS A NEW AND WORRYING CAPABILITY.
IT IS IN EVERYONE’S INTERESTS, AND PUBLIC SAFETY MORE BROADLY, FOR EVERY ONE OF US TO BE ABLE TO REPORT SERIOUS CRIMES TO THE POLICE WITHOUT FEAR.
The police must prioritise the detection and prevention of serious crime over acting as immigration enforcement. People with uncertain immigration status, or with friends and relatives whose immigration status they are unsure of, must be able to interact with the police.
Acting in the interest of immigration enforcement runs counter to the police’s overarching duty to fight crime and keep people safe, as well as their human rights obligations to receive reports of and properly investigate serious crimes.
At least 22 of the 43 forces across England and Wales are using or have previously used the devices, while others have plans to introduce them.
Front-line officers have been conducting on-the-spot ID checks and running these IDs against immigration databases since February 2018.
These scans have resulted in more than 4,350 matches against immigration databases, but forces do not record why the person had their identity checked.
Most forces do not track the number of scans or matches made, but the Metropolitan Police confirmed that in less than 18 months they used the scanners on 21,600 people, identifying more than 1,000 who were on an immigration and asylum database.
Police Using Facial Recognition Technology in Cardiff.