Another Long Beach, California, Commission is calling for a ban on the police use of facial recognition technology. The city’s Technology and Innovation Commission voiced its support for a ban in March, and now the Equity and Human Relations Commission is echoing that request with a draft letter addressed to the Mayor and the City Council.
In the letter, the Commission argued that facial recognition encroaches on people’s civil liberties, and does so in a way that will disproportionately affects communities of color. The letter noted that the majority (72 percent) of Long Beach residents are people of color, and that facial recognition has led to false arrests and other forms of bias in many cases.
The Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) does not currently use any mass surveillance tools, though it does have access to the Los Angeles County Regional Identification System (LACRIS), which contains more than 9 million mugshots. The LBPD can use the database during an investigation to compare an image of a suspect to the faces of those already registered in the system.
In addition to facial recognition, the letter calls for a ban on automated license plate recognition tech and other forms of biometric technology. The Commission argues that license plates, in particular, can be used to track people’s movements through the city, which would in turn allow the police to target vulnerable populations. For example, LBPD has shared license plate information with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and could similarly go after people who visit abortion clinics, political offices, or places of worship.
The letter goes on to advocate for the creation of a Community Oversight Commission on Surveillance Technologies to guide discussions about the future use of surveillance technologies. The Equity Commission took issue with the fact that facial recognition technology has historically been deployed with little input from the public, and also suggested that the $7.3 million that the LBPD currently spends on surveillance should be redirected to community development programs (such as those for workforce training and affordable housing) that can help reduce crime rates in the city.
Interestingly, the Commission repudiated other jurisdictions that have passed laws that permit the use of facial recognition in certain situations. In doing so, it stated that facial recognition is an inherently flawed technology that cannot be redeemed.
Sources: Long Beach Post News
June 3, 2022 – by Eric Weiss