Inside Michigan State Police Biometrics and Identification Division: Facial recognition and fingerprint identification

Posted at 10:38 PM, Sep 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-30 23:48:12-04

LANSING, Mich. - A state-of-the-art division of the Michigan State Police is designed to locate evidence in some of the state's most complex criminal investigations.

Some cases are open-and-shut and solved within a matter of hours or days. But others take time, months or even years, and require MSP technology to find the evidence needed for an arrest.

FOX 17 was recently granted unprecedented access to these labs and facilities.

Troopers turn to turn to the Biometrics and Identification Division in Lansing in high-profile cases and unsolved crimes. This division of the MSP utilizes rarely seen technology, finding clues and evidence that some of the most highly-trained law enforcement officers can`t see, hear, locate, or dissect.

“We`re talking fingerprints, DNA, facial recognition," Director of Biometrics and Identification Jeremy Slavish said. The unit, inside the MSP headquarters in Lansing, also uses audio-video analysis, polygraphs, and forensic art unit. It also oversees missing persons and unidentified bodies.

“Our facial recognition is one of the largest databases in the country, with over 7 million criminal images in the database, including scars, marks, and tattoos and those types of things,” Slavish said.

That database was used in April when armed gunmen stormed Medawar Jewelers in Grand Rapids and Tapper's Jewelry on the east side of the state. The MSP Combined DNA Index System lead to the first arrest in the Medawar robbery earlier this month.

When police get an image from surveillance cameras or any other source and they want to identify a possible suspect, facial recognition gives them the upper hand on making a match. The software compares the distance between the eyes, the cheek bones, the length of the cheek bones, and the overall head shape. Turning and tilting an image to get the best look possible, the facial recognition software only generates matches based on face shape and measurements, not race, sex, age or weight.

“We were the first state to run facial recognition against the FBI, so we’re ahead of the curve a little bit when it comes to that,” Slavish said.

The Automatic Fingerprint Identification System is their latest cutting edge piece of identification equipment. “It’s truly identifying you, whether it’s good or bad,” AFIS manager Scott Blanchard said.

If you’ve had your fingerprints taken while in jail or for a background check, the mobile ID unit tells police who you are, complete with a photo. Recently, a trooper in Grand Rapids pulled over a man on a motorcycle who claimed to not have any ID and gave a fake name. The officer used the mobile ID unit and in minutes realized this person was wanted in Texas.

That suspect was later extradited to face charges.

Don’t miss FOX 17 News at 11 Wednesday as we learn about the tools used in audio and visual analysis, forensic art and missing persons cases along with DNA research.