LINCOLN, Neb.— Lincoln police can now search for bad guys using the state's face recognition technology.
The state has used the technology for years to prevent people from getting multiple driver's licenses under different names, said Tom Casady, the city's public safety director.
The Lincoln Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/XKmK6n ) that now local police trained by the state can use the same database, Casady told the Lincoln City Council last week.
Police can compare video images from a crime — someone passing a bad check or using someone else's credit card, for example — with the 4 million pictures in the state database of Nebraska driver's licenses, state ID photos and mug shots from jails across the state.
They also can look for the identity of someone booked into jail who refuses to give a name.
The city did try to identify a man involved in a bank robbery using the state's system, but the effort was unsuccessful because the man had a bandage on the side of his face, said Casady.
The state's technology did help to identify a disoriented man who showed up at a Lincoln emergency room, said Betty Johnson with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
On television crime shows, the technology always works perfectly, said Casady.
It's not so easy in real life, he said.
The image has to be a good, frontal shot in order to use existing facial recognition technology, Lincoln Police Chief Jim Peschong said in a telephone interview.
In fact, drivers are asked to smile only slightly, not grin, for driver's license pictures to get the best image for facial recognition purposes, said Johnson.
But the technology is amazing and getting better, Casady said. He can use it to find his daughter's photos, scanning through 3,000 to 3,500 pictures he has stored using Picasa software or iPhoto.
It does have its limitations, he said.
"It's one thing to look through 3,000 images on my home computer and another to look through thousands and thousands of driver's license images," he said, adding that he expects the technology to continue to improve.
The state has also trained Omaha police and the Nebraska State Patrol staff to use the database.
The city does not have to pay to use the facial recognition technology, but there are rules.
Police can use it only for criminal investigation and prosecution. And they cannot make an arrest based solely on facial recognition, according to the agreement with the state.
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com