The government will decide if the scheme will be used nationwide
Officers on patrol from 10 police forces across England and Wales will be able to fingerprint people using mobile electronic devices, as part of a pilot scheme.
The portable gadgets - similar to a pocket PC and linked to a database of 6.5m prints - will enable officers to identify suspects "within minutes" but concerns have been raised about the impact the move will have on the relationship between police and communities.
Here, the police and a civil rights group give their differing perspectives on the new initiative.
THE POLICE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ORGANISATION (PITO)
The main benefit for the police itself is getting officers back on the streets.
The testing will show the kind of accuracy that is achievable.
The target is five minutes to send it off and get an answer back.
During testing we have done in the past, officers have been getting a three-minute response time.
We carried out a technical demonstration in Northamptonshire about two years ago but this is the first time it has been used on this scale.
The results will then be sent to the Home Office and at that point a decision will be made about whether they are prepared to fund a national roll-out
It has been limited to the 10 forces that have been selected using a range of demographic variants - certain criteria such as proximity to highways.
The pilot is going to be used to see how it [the device] would work in an operational situation.
All of the police forces are keen to be involved.
The results will then be sent to the Home Office and at that point a decision will be made about whether they are prepared to fund a national roll-out.
MARK WALLACE, CAMPAIGN MANAGER OF THE FREEDOM ASSOCIATION
This in many ways is ID cards through the backdoor - a way of building a national database that will necessitate a national fingerprint database.
No longer are we innocent until proven guilty - that is something I find objectionable.
We must remember that this is just a test - there is no law to back it up that is why it is voluntary.
I cannot see the value in it - it raises the arguments of efficiency over ethics.
I have a lot of faith in individual police officers but it does concern me that ultimately, in the future it could change the way we view justice in this country
There are concerns in the future that any individual will be automatically treated with suspicion.
It could generally change society's attitude towards police.
I would much rather see the money being spent on catching more burglars and rapists.
I have a lot of faith in individual police officers but it does concern me that ultimately, in the future it could change the way we view justice in this country.