Facial recognition is something that a lot of people have been contentious about. On one hand, it can help law enforcement officers help to identify criminals and keep identities safe. On the other hand, many see it as an invasion of privacy for people, and have taken measures to try and stop facial recognition technology to take place. Many cities have started to implement facial recognition, and that includes Edmonton, with the local police exploring the option.

Working with a vendor, Edmonton police are going to roll the program out slowly. Warren Driechel is the superintendent of the Edmonton Police Informatics Division, and he says that “The facial recognition technology we plan to implement will have the capabilities of taking an image or video that we obtained during a criminal investigation and comparing it to a database of official records that we’ve already obtained for lawful purposes,” he said.

Driechel added that “So in this case, mugshots that we’ve already obtained for previous charged events, so where we’ve charged somebody, and we’ve obtained a picture of that person under the Identification of Criminals Act.” When asked if Edmonton police would use the facial recognition tools for matching a suspect’s face with social media posts or other sources outside of the mugshots, Driechel said that wasn’t the plan.

He says that investigations will be much faster, especially for those that have a record of violent crime, which is the main focus. Using the old methods, he said, was an overwhelming task. “It was anything from trying to get an email out to the rest of the organization saying, ‘Do you recognize this person?’ to actually try to go out and look for them and that can take a lot of time. And it’s probably not as dependable actually, as you think it might be.”

There have been some that have said that they’re not comfortable with the use of the force’s facial recognition, but were assured that the pros outweigh the cons. Driechel reiterated that the privacy laws that have been put in place will be adhered to, and that this is strictly for solving crimes and not doing surveillance.