Each of the more than 5,600 registered sex offenders in Iowa could soon have their mug shots digitized and saved to a database that law enforcement officials could then match to everything from security camera images to Facebook photos with a few mouse clicks.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety is in the middle of a program to equip every Iowa sheriff’s department with an electronic signature pad, laptop computer and digital camera that can support the high-resolution data to feed through facial recognition software.
“Biometrics is really coming up to play a big part in law enforcement and investigations and things like that,” said Terry Cowman, special agent in charge of the state’s sex offender registry program. “What’s interesting about facial rec is it is kind of the future of where we’re at.”
He has about $110,000 to pay for the hardware through a federal grant. Now he’s seeking another $180,000 to pay for the software and training that would allow the state to digitize roughly 10,000 photos, but he won’t receive word on the grant until spring.
Still, the move to digitize and analyze faces of sex offenders has some concerned about what comes next. Do you think images of Iowa’s registered sex offenders should be part of a police database? Should the program be expanded to people convicted of other crimes?