Winnipeg Police Headquarters will have 11 biometric hand scanners installed at entrances and exits to track which officers are in the building at any given time, the CBC reports.
The addition of the scanners comes as a result of a $158,000 human resources upgrade approved by Winnipeg’s city council in 2018, and will be connected to attendance management software that will allow senior management to know who is in the building at all times. The move is meant as an upgrade to the existing punch-card system used today.
There are instances where police need to know which staff members are on premises — especially in cases where specialized officers are needed, like tactical officers or breathalyzer technicians — and the new system should help in locating them more efficiently.
In an interview with the CBC, Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth welcomed the move, saying that the biometric scanners will improve upon an antiquated system.
“Right now, we’re using the lists and calling people at home because our scheduling system is pretty old,” Smyth said, while also indicating the scanners would provide “an additional layer of building security.”
City councillor and chair of the Police Board Kevin Klein also voiced his support for the system, saying that it will help to improve accountability, a sentiment echoed by Smyth, who pointed to recent problems with the city’s property inspections branch that resulted in some employees being fired for conducting personal business while on the job.
However, the move to implement the new scanners has met with criticism from the Winnipeg Police Association (WPA) — the city’s police union — whose members have been recently troubled by the possibility of cuts to the police budget as well as potential changes to their pension plans.
Maurice Sabourin, the President of the WPA, has also been critical of the $158,000 dollar upgrade to Police HQ, saying, “it’s about priorities, [t]here are so many problems with that building. It’s very disheartening for those members to come to work on a daily basis and facing all the other difficulties.”
Sabourin also defended the existing punch-card system, arguing that it is more than adequate and does not need to be improved upon.
“We have systems in place already that quite accurately track where the members are. We have card access, we have supervisor, we have GPS, we have radios, so the biometrics is a bit of a surprise for us,” he said.
“Other than this being another slap in the member’s face, this is pretty much saying that we don’t trust you to be in the workplace at the right time.”
The WPA is also expressing concerns over the use of any data collected by the biometric scanners, an issue that is currently at the forefront of the global biometrics industry.
December 4, 2019 – by Tony Bitzionis