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UK 'Super Recogniser' officer spots more than 2,000 suspects

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Police officers wear face masks as they patrol an anti-lockdown demonstration in Parliament Square, in London, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020.
Police officers wear face masks as they patrol an anti-lockdown demonstration in Parliament Square, in London, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
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A Britsh police officer with a talent for recognising faces has now identified more than 2,100 suspects, even some who were wearing masks.

Andy Pope, a Police Community Support Officer in the West Midlands, is known as a "Super Recogniser", a talent he said "is impossible to explain."

Since joining the police force in 2012, Pope, 43, has spotted more than 2,100 wanted suspects and is now hoping to reach the 2,500 milestone by the time he celebrates his 10th anniversary as an officer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not hampered him as he's also managed to identify wanted people who were wearing face coverings.

"Although it's been a year like no other, I've carried on as usual with the same preparation coming onto a shift," he said in a statement released on Sunday.

"I've made sure I'm fully updated on the images of people wanted by the force, and it's paid off," he added.

The officer regularly patrols in and around transport hubs in Birmingham, the UK's second city home to 1.1 million inhabitants.

"I have been asked many times now, but it's impossible to explain. It's just an instinct that is the person and thankfully it's proven right," he said.

A study released in October by a Greenwich University researcher stated that despite a workforce after the police force launched a Caught on Camera database of wanted suspects, "a substantial proportion" of the identifications were made by just 25 of the UK's 48,000 police officers.

During the London riots of 2011, 20 police officers were able to identify 600, often disguised, rioters from "mainly poor-quality, night-time captured, above-head height CCTV footage". A computer face recognition system only identified a single rioter.

For the author of the study, Professor Josh Davis, being a "Super Recogniser" is "is unlikely to be a trainable skill".

"As such, 'Super Recognisers' may be the Usain Bolts of the cognitive wold. It may be innate, but it may need to be fine-tuned throughout their lives. How they do this is still a mystery," he added.