Greenwich University helps Met find 'super-recognisers' with CCTV suspect hunting skills

Super-recognisers were used in the riots which scarred London - including Woolwich

Dr Josh Davis

First published in News News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , deputy news editor

A Greenwich lecturer has joined forces with the Met Police to find more so-called 'super-recognisers' who helped quickly identify suspects in the London riots

The three-year Greenwich University project also aims to develop computer software to automate the painstaking process of analysing CCTV images of crime scenes.

It will see the Met roll-out its 'super-recogniser' programme - developed with the university to identify officers with exceptional face-recognition talents - to other forces across the country.

The programme was designed and led by Dr Josh Davis, senior lecturer in the university’s Department of Psychology, Social Work and Counselling.

He previously helped the Met identify a team of super-recognisers, which then reviewed over 200,000 hours of footage from CCTV and other cameras taken during the 2011 London riots.

Dr Davis explained: "You are born with good face recognition talents or you are not - it is as simple as that.

"Out of approximately 5,000 published images of the riots, the Met super-recognisers were responsible for identifying one third of the offenders.

"One super-recogniser Met officer identified 180 people who were subsequently arrested and charged - a tremendous success rate."

Dr Davis is now creating in-depth tests which will identify super-recognisers among new recruits.

He said: "There are clinical tests for assessing people who have poor face recognition abilities - prosopagnosia or face blindness - which is often the result of a brain injury. I am building on these tests, so that the Met can grade the face recognition skills of new officers.

"It is not something people can be taught - although we do hope that further research will identify the parts of the brain that are active in face recognition, which will contribute to our understanding of the cognitive processes involved."

And he went on: "An important part of the project is seeing how far analysis of film and images, often of very variable quality and from many different angles, can be automated.

"There is facial recognition software available but currently it has to have a receptive, non-moving participant, in a set position in a dedicated environment, for a certain period of time. That is not what happens in real life situations and at large-scale, fast-moving crime scenes."

To find out more about studying with the university’s Department of Psychology, Social Work and Counselling visit gre.ac.uk/psychology-counselling

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