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FAST and efficient international disaster victim IDentification

Final Report Summary - FASTID (FAST and efficient international disaster victim IDentification)

Executive Summary:

The INTERPOL General Assembly meeting in 2005 adopted a resolution calling for the creation of an international missing person and unidentified bodies MP/UB database (AG-2005-RES-07).

International police cooperation to identify disaster victims is supported by INTERPOL’s Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) Ante-Mortem (AM) and Post-Mortem (PM) forms. These forms have been developed and periodically updated by the INTERPOL DVI Steering Group in coordination with the DVI Standing Committee. The sections add up to seventeen A4 sides and 92 separate numbered rows for each of the AM and PM paper forms. Within each row multiple amounts of information is also often requested.

Experience during the aftermath of the Tsunami in South East Asia in 2004 confirmed that despite the good practice presented in the INTERPOL DVI (AM and PM) forms the international community was ill prepared to organise and share information for DVI. During the disaster, cooperation was planned on site ad-hoc with all of the challenges caused by different operational methodologies, training and even duplication, through national DVI teams focussing on identifying their own nationals.

In addition, although the international police community has the possibility to issue Yellow Notices (missing persons and persons unable to identify themselves) and Black Notices (unidentified bodies) there is no automatic system to compare the Notices and the Notices in themselves do not collect the detailed information good practice and often national legal rules require for a positive MP/UB reconciliation.

INTERPOL has 190 member countries. If an international MP/UB database was available through INTERPOL, officers and other experts could be trained to use it which would offer the possibility to increase international police cooperation both during disasters and for operational policing outside of disasters.

The FASTID project ran from April 2010 to March 2013. The partners in the project were: The International Criminal Police Organization – INTERPOL, the German “Bundeskriminalamt” (BKA), Plass Data Software A/S, University of Dundee, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (IOSB Karlsruhe and IGD Darmstadt) and Crabbe Consulting Ltd.

An advanced prototype MP/UB and PUI system with a virtual training programme to support international police cooperation both following disasters and for operational policing outside of disasters was delivered by the project. The system provides matching capabilities for all three primary identifiers (dental, DNA and fingerprints) and further secondary identifiers (text and images) used for MP/UB reconciliation. The virtual training programme and features within the system offer the potential for greater commonality of approach based on good practice. INTERPOL has prepared an MP/UB Implementation Project to implement the FASTID prototype at a production-level scale, without image matching (after 1 year) and adding further technical enhancements e.g. image matching and interfacing with INTERPOL’s own DNA database (after 2 years). At the time of writing funding for the project is being sourced. Implementation at the production level scale would provide INTERPOL’s 190 member countries with the MP/UB database called for in the General Assembly’s resolution (AG-2005-RES-07), increasing international police cooperation both during disasters and for operational policing outside of disasters for MP/UB and PUI.

Project Context and Objectives:

Project context

The INTERPOL General Assembly meeting in 2005 adopted a resolution calling for the creation of an international missing person and unidentified bodies MP/UB database (AG-2005-RES-07).

International police cooperation to identify disaster victims is supported by INTERPOL’s Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) Ante-Mortem (AM) and Post-Mortem (PM) forms. These forms have been developed and periodically updated by the INTERPOL DVI Steering Group in coordination with the DVI Standing Committee. The DVI forms are structured in the following sections: Section A - Personal data (AM only); Section B - Recovery of body (PM only); Section C - Description of effects (clothing, jewellery, etc); Section D - Physical description; Section E - Medical information; Section F - Dental Information; Section G - Any further information. The sections add up to seventeen A4 sides and 92 separate numbered rows for each of the AM and PM paper forms. Within each row multiple amounts of information is also often requested.

Experience during the aftermath of the Tsunami in South East Asia in 2004 confirmed that despite the good practice presented in the INTERPOL DVI (AM and PM) forms the international community was ill prepared to organise and share information for DVI. During the disaster, cooperation was planned on site ad-hoc with all of the challenges caused by different operational methodologies, training and even duplication, through national DVI teams focussing on identifying their own nationals.

In addition, although the international police community has the possibility to issue Yellow Notices (missing persons and persons unable to identify themselves) and Black Notices (unidentified bodies) there is no automatic system to compare the Notices and the Notices in themselves do not collect the detailed information good practice and often national legal rules require for a positive MP/UB reconciliation.

INTERPOL has 190 member countries. If an international MP/UB database was available through INTERPOL, officers and other experts could be trained to use it which would offer the possibility to increase international police cooperation both during disasters and for operational policing outside of disasters.

An opportunity to co-fund the development and international testing of a prototype database system was identified in 2008 and as a result the FASTID consortium was built and the project proposed for co-funding under the 7th Framework programme under the Security theme.

The FASTID project ran from April 2010 to March 2013. The partners in the project were: The International Criminal Police Organization – INTERPOL, the German “Bundeskriminalamt” (BKA), Plass Data Software A/S, University of Dundee, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (IOSB Karlsruhe and IGD Darmstadt) and Crabbe Consulting Ltd.

Objectives

1) Development of a prototype database system to support international police cooperation to identify missing persons, unidentified bodies and persons unable to identify themselves both following disasters and for operational policing outside of disasters.
2) Integration of the system within the operational environment of INTERPOL in Lyon, France as a prototype.
3) Extension of DNA and mtDNA matching techniques and investigation of the potential of “Image” matching techniques.
4) Development of explanatory and training material to support and encourage global common operational methodologies for identification tasks.
5) Testing and evaluation of the system, including INTERPOL member country volunteers.

Project Results:

The main results identified in the project which can be exploited are:

- End User requirements for Missing Person and Unidentified Bodies (MP/UB) system, incl. disaster victim identification

This result consists in a better understanding of the requirements which products would need to satisfy in order to have the potential to be practically and commercially successful in the targeted applications.

- Technical solution (System architecture and functional specs. for development) of a Missing Person and Unidentified Bodies (MP/UB) system, incl. disaster victim identification

This result consists in an assessment and design of an overall central MP/UB system for international police cooperation in daily policing and following disasters which was made within the parameters and restrictions of the present project.

- Prototype Integrated Missing Person and Unidentified Body (MP/UB) system implemented on “INTERPOL” hosted platform

This system represents the achievement of the main objective of the project. The implementation of the prototype into production would aid international police cooperation in the identification of missing persons, unidentified bodies and persons unable to identify themselves for both disaster victim identification and also during daily police work.

A Microsoft Silverlight Rich Internet Application (RIA) was chosen as a basis to develop the core of the MP/UB prototype.

The system was successfully integrated with a test platform to validate the possibility to access it through INTERPOL’s INSYST portal (INTERPOL’s authentication system for users). The system was also integrated with INTERPOL’s I-link system (a dynamic web application that allows officers in member countries to manage their data directly, and standardizes the format of the data exchanged) to request fingerprint matches and to provide data for the issuing of Yellow and Black Notices.

A comprehensive set of user roles and connected rights have been implemented reflecting the breadth of users foreseen to access the system. The identification workflow covers all the steps involved in identifying a missing person, connecting body parts or handling AM, PM or PUI duplicates; starting with the assumed identity of the two files, file disclosure handling, the comparison report, and the acceptance of the identification report. Three different types of textual searches are available to the user: quick searches, advanced searches and full text searches.

The system provides for different types of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) matching, but in general three kinds of DNA matching possibilities are considered: AM versus PM, AM versus PUI, and Blind Match. The system also allows for the storage and comparison of Mitochondrial Deoxyribonucleic acid (mtDNA) from the hypervariable segments I and II (HVSI and HVSII) regions for a set of categories.

The system provides for dental matching by comparing all dental data in AM and PM or PUI files. The matching score is calculated from the different matching properties of the dental codes on each tooth and the uniqueness within the container population.

The system provides for fingerprint matching by sending a fingerprint match request to INTERPOL’s AFIS system.

The system is also integrated with the three modules targeting the use of “images” as secondary identifiers as described below.

- Core Missing Person and Unidentified Body (MP/UB) system for sale to national police forces

The core system is the central solution within the prototype described under the previous result. The system could be used for both DVI and MP/UB work of a national character and also interfaced to the INTERPOL hosted system once in production.

- Image retrieval module

The module applies methods to search in image databases by means of content-based image retrieval methods. During the FASTID project, it was developed for and parameterized with respect to tattoo retrieval i.e. to compare AM and PM tattoo images as a secondary means of identification. The underlying algorithms are however working for other domains of content-based image retrieval as well. The module was integrated with the prototype MP/UB system. The successful results of the image retrieval experiments as well as a live demonstration suggest that identification based on images of tattoos and other body modifications can be assisted by automatic image comparison algorithms.

- Identification of human skeletal remains using face recognition software (FRS) and craniofacial reconstruction (CFR) and superimposition (CFS) module.

The process includes the production of a CFR from an unknown skull, which is then compared with a MP/UB database of facial images using automated software. The resulting collection of possible matches is then further analysed using CFS to produce single or multiple possible matches that can then be checked using one or more of the primary identifiers (DNA, dental, fingerprint). The module was integrated with the prototype MP/UB system. The Craniofacial Identification results cautiously suggest that face recognition software can be used to match a CFR to a MP/UB database, and that along with CFS will narrow the database so that the target is within the top 10%.

- MP/UB Face recognition module

The purpose of the module is to aid in the identification of persons based on AM and early- PM images through biometric algorithms. Integration of multiple face images into an internal representation suitable for comparisons given large variations have been investigated and implemented. The module was integrated with the prototype MP/UB system. In order to establish a meaningful performance estimation, the experiments including training and evaluation need to be repeated with an increased database size. AM and PM training and testing data is required to advance certain image matching techniques which is presently not available because of legal and ethical rules. The situation could be improved by: establishing a legal basis for exchange of data between institutions; enhancing the data acquisition process; and providing a legal basis to store data on solved cases for research.

- MP/UB – DVI Training module

The purpose of the module is to train organisations and international officers involved in DVI and MP/UB to adapt a common operational methodology and approach to data recording. The training programme follows the INTERPOL DVI standards and is aimed at promoting a common operational DVI methodology in INTERPOL member countries. The training programme is built around a virtual morgue. Training material is comprised of a number of media including slideshow presentations, real-time chat support facilities for participants, virtual ‘bodies’ to practice post-mortem data recording, interactive exercises to learn relevant terminology and guidance documents with additional instructions to complete the INTERPOL DVI forms. Results of the evaluation of the virtual training show that the aides developed have the potential to enhance commonality of approach.

- Assessment of developed systems

This result consists in an evaluation of the performance of the technology developed in the project, particularly with regards to the requirements of end users. This knowledge will be input into the re-engineering phases for production planned following the end of the project. The tests leading to the assessment were carried out by the consortium partners and volunteers from INTERPOL member countries. Only officials designated by INTERPOL member countries which officially confirmed their participation in the test phase through their National Central Bureaus (NCB) which included the signing of a None Disclosure Agreement (NDA) were eligible as volunteer testers. The FASTID Consortium partners were very pleased to be able to count on 21 countries (1 African, 2 American, 3 Asian, 13 European, 2 Middle Eastern and 1 Oceania) and 94 testers which ran tests on the system with police officers, pathologists and other experts. This is the greatest number of countries ever involved in the testing of a prototype system at INTERPOL.

- Gender equality

The principle of equal rights has been emphasised during the project for all legal entities and physical persons irrespective of sex, age, race, gender, handicap and nationality. The consortium took an active approach to implement gender issues into the project seeking not only to eliminate inequality but to promote equality.

The issue of gender was discussed and evaluated at each consortium meeting also in connection with each partner organisation’s own gender policies and actions such as the emphasis of being equal opportunity employers during recruitment and information events targeted at young women e.g. “Girls’ Days” - introducing school girls to technological careers which statistically have often had a higher proportion of male employees.

We are pleased to report that in terms of the people that worked in the project we got close to 50/50 (56% men and 44% women). Of the experienced researchers (PhD holders) 67% were women and 33% men. We note, also as a contribution to understanding gender issues, that this was achieved on the basis of employing the best people for the job that were already available or which could be identified and attracted to the partner organisations. In discussing gender issues in the project this was also something which the female members of the project emphasised as being the correct approach i.e. employing people on the basis of merit.

It should however also be noted that the project contained a strong element of life sciences which statistically is also well represented by female employees compared to other scientific and technological areas.

The strong representation of women in the project and also the project’s overall commitment to gender equality also meant that the research and development carried out in the project has been applicable to both the needs of men and women, for example through full inclusion of women in the setting of the FASTID solutions requirements and the testing and evaluation of its results. From the point of view of achieving an international common operational methodology for the identification of missing persons and unidentified bodies (MP/UB) cultural issues are a far greater challenge than gender issues.

Potential Impact:

The project has provided research and development results targeted towards the project objectives listed above. The expected use and impact of the results are:

An MP/UB database is expected to be located at INTERPOL in Lyon, France which will have decentralized access for use in conjunction with mass fatality events and everyday policing requirements. It will be based upon INTERPOL’s Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) Ante-Mortem (AM) and Post-Mortem (PM) DVI forms together with Yellow (missing persons) and Black (unidentified bodies) Notice forms. Rich Internet Application (RIA) methods and additional identification techniques will be incorporated into the system, building upon the currently accepted minimum international standards for the collection of data to identify victims. It will include its own search capabilities for some identifiers and will interface with other databases for features such as fingerprints. It will be accessible to INTERPOL National Central Bureaus and DVI teams via INTERPOL’s I-24/7 and https (secured Internet) communication systems. It will interface and synchronize with INTERPOL’s I-link system to ensure coherent and consistent data in both systems.

A Users Guide will be provided to facilitate standard reporting and explain the terminology used in the INTERPOL forms to ensure the proper quality of the data recorded and its appropriate international use. This will also be content within a virtual on-line training programme that will use the most effective and efficient means to guarantee that countries and organizations adopt a common recording methodology.

The most effective means of recording and searching for matches through bespoke image retrieval and processing methods with respect to faces, body modifications (e.g. tattoos), jewellery and personal effects, including clothing will be integrated into the system, following further positive assessment of their operational applicability.

INTERPOL has prepared an MP/UB Implementation Project to implement the FASTID prototype at a production-level scale, without image matching (after 1 year) and adding further technical enhancements e.g. image matching techniques and interfacing with INTERPOL’s own DNA databank (after 2 years). At the time of writing funding for the project is being sourced.

It was possible to identify over 70 dissemination activities within the project targeted at audiences at the local, regional, national and global level. The audiences included: the scientific community, industry, civil society, policy makers and the media. Activities included: websites, press releases, presentations, attendance at conference and workshops, radio interviews and articles published in the popular and specialist press.

List of Websites:

http://www.interpol.int/Projects/FASTID