How Technology Has Affected the Capabilities

Last Updated: 06 Jul 2020
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Recognizing the identity of a person is a major problem encountered by most of the justice and security systems, especially when an individual provides false information. Until recently, the methods of providing the true identity of criminals have been few and prone to errors (Davis, Weiss, 2009). With the implementation of modern computerized technologies, communication capabilities of specialized databases (such as the fingerprint identifiers) have been made effective and accurate. In this paper, the effect of technology on the communication capabilities of specialized databases in criminal justice will be analyzed, by comparing the facial recognition and iris scan techniques of identification and discussing the overall positive and negative effects of these technologies on criminal justice system.

How technology has affected the capabilities of specialized databases in the criminal justice system

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In trying to make their work easier and more effective, the justice and security personnel have always looked into the advancing technological methods to enhance communication capabilities within the justice system. The introduction of two-way radio and increased use of automobile have helped in improving the effectiveness of communication databases and responding to criminal incidents (Seaskate Inc. 1998). Modern technology has introduced many methods of specialized databases which have become exceedingly useful in crime investigation and response to incidences.

The specialized databases utilize computerized techniques to identify criminals or suspects as well as to facilitate communication between the police, the general public and amongst other security personnel. The most used specialized databases by the security and justice system to provide identification of individuals include the Mobile Data Terminals, Live Scans, Iris Scans, Facial Recognition and the AFIS (Scherpenzeel, 2008). These technologies make individual identification easier, more accurate and more effective in terms of time and cost. Both police officers and prosecutors have in many occasions applied them in identifying, judging, imprisoning or even in releasing criminals (Reichert, 2001)

Comparison between Facial Recognition and Iris Scan

Iris scan refers to a technique of biometric identification using high tech recognition patterns which utilize images of a person’s iris. Iris cameras are used to perform detections of an individual’s identity using mathematical analysis of random patterns visible in the iris. The technique uses a combination of pattern recognition, computer vision, optics and statistical inferences (Find Biometrics, n. d).

Facial recognition technique on the other hand is a computerized application which identifies an individual from a video outline or digital image. It is used in criminal justice systems to identify people by comparing the selected facial appearance from a specified facial database. This technique uses unalterable physical facial structures (say the space between centers of an individual’s pupils of the eye or the diameter of a persons eye balls) and through algorithm, finite computerized set of steps are used to solve the problem, by translating the image into numerical values (Davis, Weiss, 2009).

Iris scan is an internal detection method while the facial recognition is an external detection technique. Unlike the iris scan which uses an internal organ of the body, the facial recognition technique is done using certain parts of an individual face such jaws, cheekbones, nose or the eyes: these features are applied in searching for images matching with them. Facial recognition has been criticized because it uses external parts of the body which are likely to change over time through long exposure to manual work, use of facial cosmetics or plastic surgery (Titanium, 2010).

These changes can completely transform and individual’s physical appearance, thus making it hard to be identified from a crowd. However, the method has one merit the iris scan and other biometric methods lack; it doesn’t call for any help from the individual being tested—if the system is properly designed and effectively installed in places such as multiplexes and airports, it can easily pick out the required subject from a crowd.

For other biometric techniques such as the iris scan, speech recognition and fingerprints, the subject must be involved in the detection process and mass identification cannot apply (Titanium, 2010). Nonetheless, Iris scan is more reliable since it is not dependent on light or sight, but depends on the pattern of the iris. The facial recognition technique can fail due to poor lighting, long hair, use of sunglasses and other small resolution images and objects that relatively cover the face (Titanium, 2010).

The overall positive and negative effects of the new techniques on the criminal justice system

Basically, the new technologies in the criminal justice and communication have greatly improved the way in which criminal identification and tracing is conducted by the justice and security systems. To begin with, specialized databases are used either complimentary or alternatively to ensure that accurate results are made. This implies that in one instance, both the facial recognition and fingerprints can be applied for the same specimen or subject when there are doubts or ambiguity regarding identity.

This ensures that minimal errors occur, thus reducing the chances of wrong identification (Scherpenzeel, 2008). Furthermore, the new technologies have reduced the costs that used to be incurred in tracking down criminals. Such costs included travel costs, paying witnesses, interviewing individuals, costs of detaining many suspects before identifying the guilty criminal. More so, problems that used to be encountered due to physical transformation of an individual as a result of surgeries, injuries and use of cosmetics have now been overcome through the use of specialized databases like the speech recognition and iris scan biometrics (Scherpenzeel, 2008)..

However, the new technologies have had a number of negative effects on the criminal justice system. The most common negative effect is the fact that this new technologies require a lot of professionalism and skill, not only in criminology, but also in statistics, mathematics and computer technology. However, many people do not possess this combined qualifications and this leads to shortage of personnel in the criminal investigation department.

As such, the process of identification becomes slower since it is entrusted with few specialists who are cannot be able to handle all the cases presented to them. In some other cases, semi-skilled people have been entrusted the work, resulting to wrong identification or non identification (Reichert 2001). Other problems usually result from system breakdowns or corruption of system files which affect the validity of the results. Corruption of operating systems is mostly done by people within the criminal justice system who wish to obstruct certain criminal identification processes for personal reasons (Scherpenzeel, 2008).

Since some of this technologies are still relatively new (such as the iris scan and live scan),  most of the criminal justice systems find it too expensive to adopt them due to the high initial installation costs and therefore, they are rarely used. Other specialized databases like the facial scanner pose problems in places of installation such as railways and airports due to security factors. This has made it difficult for the justice system to continually use this technique in identifying wanted individuals (Reichert 2001).

Preferred specialized databases

Among all the types of specialized databases and biometric scanners and devices used for detection of identification today, the iris scanner has proved to be most effective and accurate. This is because, an individual’s iris cannot be impeded by contact lenses and glasses; it can be accurately scanned from ten centimeters to several meters away. In addition the iris remains constant for a long time unless injuries occur—one enrolment scan lasts for a lifetime. Although certain surgical and medical operations may affect the color and shape of the iris, its fine texture maintains stability for decades. Furthermore, it can still be used on blind people because the technology is not dependent on sight but on pattern. (Find Biometrics, n. d).


The use of specialized databases in criminal justice system is a great move towards improving the effectiveness and efficiency of criminal identification. It is important that these databases be implemented across the globe for detecting and tracking down criminals, since the negative effects of these technologies are so meager, and easily solvable as compared to the overall positive impact.


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Reichert, K. (2001). Promising approaches to addressing crime: use of information technology

in law enforcement. University of south Wales, Australia.

Scherpenzeel, R. (2008). Key issues in introducing information technology in criminal justice.

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