Frontline New South Wales police officers only use smartphone-compatible fingerprint scanners a fraction of the time, in part because of their past experience with the technology.
The finding, contained in an audit [pdf] The $ 100 million government fund for “tomorrow’s police” released earlier this month raises questions about the $ 4.3 million investment.
NSW Police deployed 1,000 NEC handheld fingerprint scanners in late 2018 to allow officers to deal with offenders in the field and therefore spend more time on the front line.
âField identification devicesâ are used to identify persons of interest and register fingerprints on the national automated fingerprint identification system via the force’s 4,700 MobiPol devices.
They replaced an old fleet of portable fingerprint scanners provided by IDEMIA, which had “connection issues and other issues that made officers reluctant to take devices out on patrol.”
Scans had languished between two and four percent of all criminal offense notices and field court appearance notices issued in 2018.
NSW Police have the authority to take fingerprints upon arrest and may also require a person to consent to provide fingerprints if a criminal offense notice or a court appearance notice has been served.
Offering significant advantages over existing technology, NSW police naturally expected the new field identifiers to “increase the rate of fingerprint scans.”
But audit finds NSW police ‘do not appear to have been successful in promoting sustained use,’ with devices only used to verify fingerprints in just over four percent of cases, as of December 2019 .
And while there was an initial increase in scans, where devices were used between five and six percent of the times, it’s now at “a rate comparable to the old device.”[s]â.
The auditor general said there was a “lack of a sustained increase in the use of the mobile fingerprint scanner”, possibly due to “low uptake of end users and supervisors in the technology.”
He also said that agents’ experience with the old devices had a direct impact on their willingness to use the new devices, an issue that was identified in the business case.
“Agents we spoke to in this audit indicated that the poor performance of previous technology had made them suspicious of the replacement device,” the audit said.
The report also highlights a lack of ongoing training, with the force often relying on officers accessing guides on the NSW Police intranet to review after an initial training session.
âWhile the training emphasizes the benefits of Field ID and encourages agents to use the device when they can, we saw no evidence that this message was being followed up on a regular basis,â the audit said.
âEfforts to register supervisors to advocate for the use of field identifiers have also not been successful. “