A Maine police department claims to be the first in the nation to have access to a new biometric system that includes facial recognition, reported The Portland Press Herald. Police officers at the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office can take a photo of a suspect using a smartphone or digital camera and send the picture through the system, which then provides potential identity matches. The system, made by Dynamic Imaging Systems, cost the department about $35,000.

"If we get a bank photo of somebody and we scan it and it's a good enough quality picture, it's going to give us leads of who it might be, and it's at least a starting point," Sheriff Kevin Joyce said.

The technology received criticism from the Maine American Civil Liberties Union as being unreliable and a possible violation of citizen privacy rights.

The biometrics used for facial recognition in the system are based on measuring the face and analyzing the iris. Biometrics like face and iris recognition are increasingly taking hold in government agencies including police departments and prisons.

In July, the FBI announced plans for a federal tattoo database. The development of biometrics has largely been led by government funding, starting with the FERET (Face Recognition Technology) program in 1993, according to a National Institute of Standards and Technology report.