Unique codes could be used to confirm Hertfordshire police officers' identity in the wake of Sarah Everard murder

Plan could be one of new hi-tech trials in £637,000 package of investment,

By Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 9:38 am
Updated Tuesday, 1st March 2022, 9:40 am

Concerned residents who are questioned or approached by police officers in Hertfordshire may soon be able to check their identity by asking for a unique number to be texted to their mobile phone.

The system is being considered for use by the Hertfordshire Constabulary, in the wake of high profile incidents such as the Sarah Everard murder, as part of proposals drawn up by Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd.

And it could be one of a number of new technologies to be trialled in the county as part of a £637,000 package of investment, set to be included in the Commissioner's police and crime plan.

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The system is being considered for use by the Hertfordshire Constabulary

As part of the hi-tech proposal, anyone being approached by the police could ask for 'officer authentification' by contacting the Constabulary and giving the officer's collar number.

Then the officer and the member of the public would be sent a code - and matching codes would confirm the police officer's identity.

Outlining the proposal to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Commissioner David Lloyd acknowledges that in the wake of the Sarah Everard murder, there are some concerns.

And he hopes the use of the technology could provide some reassurance that a police officer is 'bona fide'.

"One of the roles I have is about underlining police legitimacy and some members of the public are more concerned about police legitimacy than they were," said Mr Lloyd.

"Some - in that incident of being arrested or whatever - may feel that they want to be certain that they are being arrested by a police officer or being spoken to by a police officer. This gives them a way of doing that.

"I would underline we have not had an incident in Hertfordshire - that I am aware of - where someone has purported to be a police officer - or indeed a police officer has inappropriately purported to be arresting someone when they weren't, in the manner of what happened to Sarah Everard.

"Whilst I underline that there isn't a risk in Hertfordshire I think this will reassure people there is another way of being certain about it.

"Because clearly what happened to Sarah Everard still makes all of us both sad and annoyed and probably no part of the population are sadder or more annoyed than police officers - because it really wasn't what police officers sign-up for the job for."

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In addition, the technology investment earmarked by the police and crime commissioner is also designed to make it easier for residents and motorists to send in footage from doorbell cameras and dashcams.

It will, says Mr Lloyd, also enable footage from an ongoing incident to be sent directly to police officers, so they can see what has happened before their arrival.

And Mr Lloyd believes that the use of footage from mobile phones, dashcams and doorbell cameras could be 'transformational'.

He says residents already have the technology they need on their mobile phones - but an expansion of the police's digital capability would make it easier for them to upload it and share with the police.

"[...] . . . so many witnesses in incidents have really good evidence they can upload - and I think that will make an amazing difference," said Mr Lloyd.

"It will take a few years and it will continue to develop, but this will be really important."

Further details about the proposals to increase the use of technology are expected to be included in the commissioner's police and crime plan, when it is published later this month (March).

And the proposals will be considered by the next meeting of the Hertfordshire Police and Crime Panel on March 17.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire Constabulary has also recognised the role of technology within the police.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The Constabulary is working with other forces and national bodies to continually develop and introduce new technologies to improve services and increase efficiencies – an example being the ability of the public to report crime and receive help and advice via our web site and web chat services.”