by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The widespread use of face masks across the country has made it more challenging for police officers to identify suspects, solve crimes, and make arrests, according to law enforcement officials.
“It does impact our jobs, but the safety of the people in this world with this pandemic has got to be above that,” Charleston Police Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Capt. Dustin Thompson said. The South Carolina official described masks as just another hurdle that police are accustomed to having to overcome to solve crimes.
“We’re used to working cases where people are wearing masks and the video’s grainy or something is covering their face,” said Thompson, who previously led the violent crimes unit in the South Carolina city. …
San Antonio Police Department spokeswoman Alisia Pruneda acknowledged the issue but said it isn’t the first time criminals have disguised themselves, and officers and detectives who investigate crimes “work diligently and tirelessly to bring suspects to justice” regardless of challenges. …
… Brenna Angel, spokeswoman for the Lexington Police Department in Kentucky, said the agency has seen “some cases recently involving suspects wearing masks that appeared to be COVID-related masks.”
Thompson said detectives can use cameras to trace someone’s steps, possibly to a spot where they may have taken off the mask.
“You might see them coming out of a convenience store taking off their mask,” Thompson said. The city of Charleston, like most mid-size and large U.S. cities, has software that is able to scan images from video footage against a database to see if they match images in the system.
However, facial recognition software cannot work on someone wearing a mask, making other clues about a person’s description or tracing their movement before or after an incident important.