The Transforming Forensics (TF) programme, hosted by the Police Digital Service (PDS), is progressing the development of the new national, digital fingerprint capability for policing. This is due for completion by December 2022. The capability is hosted on the PDS Xchange, a secure, national, cloud-based platform. PDS Xchange provides an end-to-end digital suite of tools that integrates with key policing technology and infrastructure used for this type of evidence.
The capability has been developed in partnership with the Police Digital Service (PDS), Home Office Biometrics (HOB), and Police Subject Matter Experts.
Successful integration of the capability with IDENT1, the national automated fingerprint system (provided through Home Office Biometrics), was completed in April this year. This integration is made possible through Xchange, which facilitates access to more than 8.4 million fingerprint data records held and accessible through the cloud.
Hosting arrangements for TF have transferred to PDS, which has worked with the programme to create the environment for a successful delivery of the Xchange capability. PDS is working to deliver the capability with the aim to deliver to the first forensic forces this financial year (FY).
A ‘game changer’ for policing
The new fingerprint capability will enable policing to deliver against key ambitions set out in the National Policing Digital Strategy, including:
- “Addressing Harm” through faster and more precise identification of suspects within hours rather than days. Earlier intervention will prevent repeat serious acquisitive crime (SAC), such as burglaries and vehicle related theft, which makes up currently 75% of circa 2 million neighbourhood crimes.
- “Embedding A Whole Public System Approach” through integration already achieved with IDENT1. The capability paves the way for further integration and image consolidation and a higher level of compliance. This enables image retention/removal in a cost-effective way.
- Enabling Officers and Staff Through Digital by providing capabilities for digital retrieval from the crime scene. This will allow forensic staff and officers to spend longer in the field without the need to return to base and facilitates provision of a national digital approach to fingerprint recovery, identification and storage. Less paper records, supported by improved workflows and automation.
This will be achieved through access to digital suite of tools, supported by whole system workflows and automation, and housed on the PDS Xchange platform, which is powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS). With these tools forensic teams can:
- Send fingerprint and crime scene images in real-time to the Fingerprint Bureau.
- Evaluate, compare and identify fingerprints, using the national IDENT1 database and allow for the recording of analyses of data.
- Work safely and securely with fingerprint data through a fully compliant and validated solution to international standards (ISO 17025).
- Use an automated digital workflow, that is driven by service-level-agreements, and works to appropriate compliance standards for data retention and deletion.
Xchange offers the potential for significant growth and future developments, both in forensics and across wider capabilities used to support policing needs.
The road to delivery
TF has engaged widely with the policing and forensic science community, in preparation for delivery to forces. This most recently included an update on the fingerprint capability and Xchange at the Forensic Community Reference Group, in November.
Technical development of the fingerprint capability is due to be completed this December, with a view to start full deployment from early March 2023, with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit that includes: Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire police forces.
“What TF has created with this capability and the Xchange platform moves fingerprints into the digital age whilst de-risking obsolescence. This game changing moment now swings the focus to prioritise the integration between HOB and TF, a crucial requirement for delivering the “holy grail” of fingerprint identification and maximise investigative outcomes,” said Andrew Price, Director of Corporate, Forensic and Technical Services at the East Midlands Special Operations Unit.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Forensic Lead, Chief Constable, Nick Dean, said: “This new digital capability is an example of how policing and partner agencies can collectively drive significant positive changes for forensics. I am delighted with how collective efforts have taken us to this point, where we have reached a new frontier with fingerprint technology. I am confident that this will lead to crucial improvements for investigations and better outcomes for victims of crime, in the near future.”
TF Programme Director, Richard Meffen, said: “We’re delighted to have delivered the Xchange platform and fingerprint capability. We’ve worked closely with technical and Forensic Subject Matter Experts across the country to ensure this product is truly transformational. This is a great example of the value we can create by working closely with Policing, partner agencies and the Home Office to ensure a successful outcome that will have a significant and positive impact on how Fingerprints are delivered and run in the digital age.
“When our first forces go live on Xchange it will be a hugely important milestone for the TF programme that will make a real difference for policing. We are grateful to the support from the NPCC Lead for Fingerprints, CC Rachel Swan, PDS’s Chief Executive Officer, Ian Bell, and PDS colleagues who have led, enabled and supported the programme to ensure we can deliver this state-of-the-art, class-leading capability. It is hugely exciting to consider how else we might pursue further future developments, in this fast-moving space.”