Fake policemen and helpless citisens

Some half a year ago we mentioned on this blog that Czech police ID cards and badges have virtually no anti-counterfeit protection. We stated that it created enormous risks for citizens. It was our reaction to a series of thefts done by a criminal with fake police ID card. It was easy to see that it could be much worse. “What if the false policeman handcuffed a shop assistant a took her? “ we were asking.

It happened. A few weeks ago, there was a case in front of the regional court in Ústí nad Labem. Three pensioners kidnapped a woman using fake police badges. They did not need any sophisticated technology. They had no police uniforms and were even too cheap to spend money on police handcuffs. They instead used a sex-shop toy. It was still sufficient to handcuff an adult woman, put her into their car and put a bag on her head. The victim was released after several hours without further violence, but the psychical impact can last for many years. It is not difficult to imagine that even something much worse and more brutal could happen.

It is especially serious that it was committed by a group of inexperienced amateurs. Almost anybody can do something similar. Any little pilferer can take you, not just advanced criminal organisations.

This bad situation has been caused by negligence in fraud protection of police badges and ID cards. A police badge is not protected at all! Police ID card includes an element like watermark or hologram, but details have not been published. A citizen thus has no chance to verify the genuineness of a card, to say nothing about the badge.

Again and again, we meet the same argument during discussions with police experts from different Europan countries. Potential counterfeiters would be helped by making details of security elements publicly known. Of course, it is true. However, it is evident that such thinking is backed by a belief that it is sufficient if only law enforcement units, or perhaps only special units such as audit and inspection, can recognise genuineness of police ID cards and badges. Risks for citizens are neglected.

It is not necessary that the requirement on protecting the public is contradictory to confidentiality of information about anti-counterfeit features. With the implementation of advanced protective technology, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Firstly. Protection features of different levels should be treated differently. Features at level 1 are easily visible. Changing of colours, 3D illusions, a move of objects. An explanation video should exist where these features are described.

Alongside with, other features that are not obvious can be implemented into the hologram. Elements seen only under red light or UV light are examples of such level 2 features. Other elements can be identified just in laboratories. In expert language, we can talk about visible (overt), hidden (covert) and forensic features.  Hidden and forensic features are not public, only law enforcement experts know them.

Microholograms can cover all three levels at the same time. It is made public that „metallic dust“ is in a defined area of the document. For policemen, information about features seen with a magnifier (regular shape, picture engraved, holographic surface) can be available. Forensic experts can find complete holograms with all visual effects on each grain.

Secondly. Security holograms should include visual elements that are distinctive and extremely difficult to imitate. It can be an unusual animation in combination with 3D illusion, fluent move of objects together with a change of colours etc. Description of some such effects from Optaglio´s portfolio is available here. These effects are created through the application of extremely high resolution (millions of DPI) and special mathematic algorithms that cannot be derived from ready holograms.

To sum up. It needs some effort to produce badges and ID documents protected against imitation. However, such effort would bring more security and certainty to citizens. It is not necessary to wait for the first murder committed by faked policemen.

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