Four congressional Democrats have introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, a new law enforcement bill that while requiring federal, state and local law enforcement officers to wear body cameras would restrict their use of facial recognition technology at the same time.
The bill was introduced by Reps. Karen Bass, D-Calif., chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chair of the House Judiciary Committee; and former Democratic presidential contenders Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Aside from reigning in the use of biometric surveillance, it aims to hold police more accountable for their actions and reform guidelines on their use of force.
This comes at a time where massive amounts of protests have been taking place across America — and around the globe as well — against racism, police brutality and social injustices. In recent weeks, police and protesters have clashed a number of times, with the calls for some level of police reform picking up momentum.
“What we are witnessing is the birth of a new movement in our country with thousands coming together in every state marching to demand a change that ends police brutality, holds police officers accountable, and calls for transparency,” Bass said in a statement introducing the legislation. “For over 100 years, Black communities in America have sadly been marching against police abuse and calling for the police to protect and serve them as they do others, [and] today we unveil the Justice in Policing Act, which will establish a bold transformative vision of policing in America.”
The bill requires “uniformed officers with the authority to conduct searches and make arrests [to] wear a body camera,” in an effort to increase accountability and provide evidence for cases that involve accusations of police wrongdoing.
In order to ensure that the mandated body and vehicle cameras don’t lead to increased surveillance on the part of the police, the bill’s authors made clear the limits on exactly what type of technology the cameras can employ.
“Body cameras shall not be used to gather intelligence information based on First Amendment protected speech, associations, or religion, or to record activity that is unrelated to a response to a call for service or a law enforcement or investigative encounter between a law enforcement officer and a member of the public, and shall not be equipped with or subjected to any real time facial recognition technologies,” the bill states.
In recent week, concerns have grown that protesters will be identified using facial recognition technology, prompting encrypted messaging app Signal to release a face-blurring tool, and Massachusetts senator Edward Markey (D) to write a letter to embattled facial recognition startup Clearview AI demanding it submit to an independent assessment of its technology.
Though the bill places restrictions on the use of real-time facial recognition tech, it does allow video footage capture through body or vehicle cameras to be subject to facial recognition procedures at a later date if a legal warrant is obtained and the court finds that there is “probable cause to believe that the requested use of facial recognition is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.”
The chances the legislation has of passing into law appear slim at the moment, with no Republican support in either chamber as of yet.
June 10, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis