The Los Angeles Police Commission has given the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) permission to continue to use facial recognition, though it did place some restrictions on the practice. The Commission agreed to review the city’s facial recognition policy after the LAPD was forced to acknowledge that it had conducted roughly 30,000 searches since 2009, and had taken deliberate steps to hide the fact that it had done so. The LAPD publicly denied any use of facial recognition as recently as 2019.
The new policy prohibits the use of any third-party facial recognition systems, and limits the LAPD to software provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. That software cross-references new images with the County’s mugshot database, and can only be used during a criminal investigation, when there is an imminent threat to life, or to identify someone who has been incapacitated and consequently cannot confirm their own identity.
The policy also prevents the LAPD from using facial recognition on footage captured with a bodycam or an in-car dashcam. Officers can use facial recognition to generate a lead, but a match does not constitute probable cause. As a result, the police must present supplementary information before making an arrest or pressing charges, and cannot rely on the match alone.
Despite the safeguards, the Commission’s decision largely dismisses the concerns of privacy advocates, who had pushed for a complete ban on the technology comparable to those that have been passed in cities like San Francisco. Nine hundred thirty-one of the 943 public comments submitted to the Commission expressed opposition to the policy, with the vast majority (nearly 890) of those echoing the language used in a letter published by a coalition of advocacy groups that included the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.
“They completely abdicated their responsibility as a civilian oversight body,” said Hamid Khan, a representative of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. “The Commission just buckled and gave the LAPD what they wanted. It’s more license to racially profile, it’s more license to criminalize Black and brown folks.”
The LAPD banned the use of third-party facial recognition systems in November, after learning that several of its officers used Clearview AI to conduct searches without formal approval.
Source: Los Angeles Times
January 14, 2021 – by Eric Weiss