By: Jesse Davis West October 20, 2017

The FaceFirst mobile face recognition platform instantly identifies suspects in the field, saving officers hundreds of patrol hours annually and helping to ensure that wanted criminals don’t slip through the cracks. It also helps minimize false arrests. In an age where law enforcement is put under the microscope for mistakes, ensuring that police have the right person is incredibly important.  

The case of Hanson Melvin is a prime example. Earlier this year, Chatanooga officer David Campbell arrested 27-year-old Hanson Melvin for disorderly conduct after Melvin failed to provide identification. The officer had been sent to investigate a fight. Melvin stated that he could not provide a license because he did not have one on him. And, as it turned out, the fight was completely unrelated to Melvin. This event generated a slew of negative press for the Chatanooga Police Department, but that wasn’t the only repercussion. The incident—along with Campbell’s history of reckless driving—also resulted in his being fired from the force.  

The True Cost of a False Arrest 

False arrests can generate bad press and cost officers their jobs. However, there are often wider implications. False arrests generate lawsuits that have traditionally resulted in gargantuan settlements. The incident in which Robert Graham was falsely arrested for disorderly conduct resulted in Graham being awarded a six-figure settlement. And in 2004, the city of New York had to pay a total of $18 million for the false arrest of protesters.  

False arrests have many ramifications, all of which are detrimental to police departments and individual officers. Here are some statistics that show how damaging a false arrest can be: 

  • Press impact – Tens of thousands of press mentions per incident 
  • Price per incarcerated hour – $7,700 (In AT & CT v. City of NY, a 17-hour wrongful detention resulted in an $80K settlement) 
  • Settlement fees – Up to $625,000 (Robert Bryant was awarded $625,000 after a wrongful arrest). 
  • Total Expenses related to a false arrest – Potentially millions, including legal fees, settlements, public relations and other factors 

Enter: Face Recognition 

It’s clear that for officers to protect their reputation, their jobs and to avoid costly settlements, false arrests have to be avoided at all costs. That’s where facial recognition comes in. Facial recognition gives officers the power to instantly identify suspects, assess dangers and make sure that innocent civilians aren’t being harassed.  

How Face Recognition Works 

Face recognition empowers officers in the field to quickly identify suspects. Officers can simply use their mobile phones to snap a photograph of a suspect from a safe distance. If that individual is in their database it can then positively identify that person in seconds with a high degree of accuracy. This helps officers know instantly when they are dealing with dangerous individuals or criminals with outstanding warrants. It can also provide situational awareness to let them know when they are dealing with an individual who is not in their database (i.e. someone who is far more likely to be a law-abiding citizen).   

How Face Recognition Prevents False Arrests 

If Chatanooga officer David Campbell had access to facial recognition, he might have been able to identify Hanson Melvin instantly. The fact that Melvin didn’t have his ID on him could have been rendered irrelevant, and the ensuing struggle and arrest may have been avoided altogether.  

Another way that facial recognition helps minimize false arrests is through identity protection. According to Lloyd Muenzer, a law enforcement technology expert and analyst at The Automated Regional Justice Information System (ARJIS), “Face recognition is protecting people’s identity because if a bad guy gives a name and date of birth of somebody that’s real [and innocent], now you potentially have a warrant or some other case listing that person’s name and date of birth, where it really wasn’t true.”  

ARJIS has helped over 30 law enforcement agencies implement face recognition and the results have been transformative. “I get nothing but positive feedback [about face recognition],” Muenzer stated. “Literally everybody wants it.”  

A single false arrest can have wide sweeping ramifications for a law enforcement department. It can result in expensive lawsuits and settlements. It can tarnish an officer’s (or even an entire department’s) reputation. And it can result in officers losing their jobs. Face recognition offers an extra layer of defense against false arrests, to help ensure that communities continue to view the officers who are serving and protecting them with the respect that they deserve. 

Ready to learn more? Schedule your free demo and see how FaceFirst is helping local, state and national law enforcement agencies reduce false arrests, protect officers and automate suspect identification