Copenhagen police calls for use of facial recognition tech

Facial recognition technology could be a “huge advantage” for police, a senior Copenhagen officer has said in an interview.

Copenhagen police calls for use of facial recognition tech
A demonstration of facial recognition in Berlin in 2017. File photo: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Copenhagen Police senior inspector Jørgen Bergen Skov said in an interview with newspaper Berlingske that police in the capital would like to have the option of using the technology.

Skov spoke to the newspaper on the topic of surveillance in light of the government’s plans to pass legislation which will broaden the extent to which police can use CCTV cameras to monitor citizens.

The government is to propose “significantly” more police surveillance in the form of 300 new security cameras, which law enforcement will be able to install at its own discretion.

READ ALSO: Denmark's prime minister promises 'massive' public surveillance intensification

The chief police inspector said that, although he had asked the government to allow more police surveillance, he would like to go further and implement facial recognition.

“How it would work would initially be a political discussion, but nobody can be in doubt that it would be a huge advantage for investigations,” he said to Berlingske.

When police collect large amounts of video data, faces and other shapes like bags, clothing and logos can be identified in crowds, a potentially relevant factor in cases such as terror investigations, Skov explained.

“If we are looking for someone who has committed terror and that person is walking around town, we currently have to look at a large amount of video footage manually and look for the person, who may have been filmed at the scene of the crime. That needs many, many people to look at the video,” he said in the interview.

“If software could help us to see where we should look, that would be a huge advantage for us,” he said.

Skov declined to comment on whether he had asked for facial recognition technology in the new cameras provided for by the government’s security proposals.

But he noted that the set of measures did not specify purchase of technology for facial recognition.

Critics of the government’s decision to allow more police surveillance have expressed concern about individual privacy.

“I’m not interested in whether someone is picking their nose in a shop. We are looking for people who have committed crimes,” Skov said to Berlingske.

“I don’t want to neglect anyone’s feelings. I think it’s important that we have this discussion. That’s also why I agreed to this interview: first and foremost, I want to say that (surveillance) is an important resource for the police… we need it to solve serious crimes,” he said.

Most of the government security measures announced earlier this month must be passed by parliament in a series of bills, Berlingske writes. So far, 1 of 16 elements of the overall package have been formally proposed.

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Denmark says 450 extra police officers will strengthen response to rape, assault and break-ins

Victims of violence and rape in Denmark are Monday today guaranteed police offers will be dispatched to assist if they need acute help.

A file photo of a police motorcycle. A new Danish police guarantee requires officers to be dispatched to attend all reports of assault and rape as well as locations of break-ins.
A file photo of a police motorcycle. A new Danish police guarantee requires officers to be dispatched to attend all reports of assault and rape as well as locations of break-ins. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

Police are also now required to attend addresses within 24 hours after reports of a break-in.

The new standards are included in a new “police guarantee” confirmed by the Ministry of Justice in a statement. The guarantee was included in the police funding bill voted through by parliament in December 2020.

Justice minister Nick Hækkerup said that police can meet that guarantee, pointing to the provision in the police bill to add 450 officers to Denmark’s police forces during the course of 2021, 2022 and 2023.

But the trade union for the police, Politiforbundet, says that the total police force must be increased by 5,000 officers if the guarantee is to be lived up to.

“I am completely confident in relation to the extra resources which will be added to the police in coming years being enough to fulfil the guarantee,” Hækkerup said.

“I want to see their calculations,” the minister said in relation to the police union’s number.

“That is equivalent to us needing to increase our police staffing by 50 percent to be able to meet the guarantee we have set,” he added.

The police union has also criticised the guarantee because they see it could result in other tasks being delayed.

“Then there wouldn’t be enough resources for tasks like domestic incidents, traffic accidents and mentally ill member of the public,” the union’s leader Heino Kegel said.

Hækkerup rejected the suggestion resources would be pulled away from other areas.

“It’s not as if this is a completely new task. It’s a task we already undertake,” he said.

READ ALSO: Copenhagen police to ban people with criminal records from nightlife areas