Skip to content

Mobile Biometric Devices (355A/20)


I’m seeking data relating to the West Midlands Police’s use of the mobile biometric devices that were rolled out as part of the Home Office’s Biometrics Strategic Mobile Project, more commonly known as the Strategic Mobile solution. The scanners I refer to is the “mobile fingerprinting system that lets [police officers] check the identity of an unknown person in less than a minute,” as detailed in this article.

Firstly, I have five questions:

  1. How many scanners does the West Midlands Police currently have in its possession?
  2. How many scans has the West Midlands Police done since it obtained this technology?
  3. How many scans by the West Midlands Police have resulted in an arrest?
  4. How many scans by the West Midlands Police have resulted in a referral to the Home Office?
  5. How many people have declined to have their fingerprints scanned by one of these devices?

    Secondly, I would like to request the following data on fingerprint scans performed by the West Midlands Police for the period of time beginning September 1 2018 and ending June 30 2020. Specifically, for every month in that time period, I would like to know:

  6. How many scans were performed;
  7. How many scans resulted in a match in the IABS database;
  8. How many scans resulted in a match in the IDENT1 database;
  9. 9. Thirdly, I would like to know, for all scans performed by the West Midlands Police during the aforementioned time period, a breakdown of those scanned by age, gender and ethnicity, as well as a breakdown as to the reason fingerprints were taken. It’s my understanding that the scanners themselves do not record this information, but in a Privacy Impact Assessment written by the Home Office in relation to this initiative – attached here, page 5 – there is a written record by the officer conducting the scan which includes all of the information I’m requesting.


Our data are not organised in such a way as to allow us to provide this information within the appropriate (cost) limit within the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. This is because the information you have requested is not all stored in a centrally collated format and would therefore require manually examining and cross referencing data from thousands of individual cases.

This means that the cost of providing you with the information is above the amount to which we are legally required to respond i.e. the cost of locating and retrieving the information exceeds the ‘appropriate level’ as stated in the Freedom of Information (Fees and Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004.

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, this letter acts as a Refusal Notice for this part of the request and if one part of a request exceeds the fees limit then S12 of the Act applies to the whole request.

However, in accordance with Section 16 of the Act I have a duty to provide advice and assistance in relation to your request and can provide information for questions 1,2,6,7 & 8. Please see attached document (355A_Attachment).

This should not be taken as a precedent that additional information would be supplied outside of the time/fees legislation for any subsequent requests.

Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from a number of data sources used by forces for police purposes. The detail collected to respond specifically to your request is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when interpreting those data.

The figures provided therefore are our best interpretation of relevance of data to your request, but you should be aware that the collation of figures for ad hoc requests may have limitations and this should be taken into account when those data are used.

If you decide to write an article / use the enclosed data we would ask you to take into consideration the factors highlighted in this document so as to not mislead members of the public or official bodies, or misrepresent the relevance of the whole or any part of this disclosed material.