Police Use Controversial Biometric Tech to Identify Capital Gazette Shooter

Police Use Controversial Biometric Tech to Identify Capital Gazette Shooter

Police authorities used facial recognition to identify the suspect in last week’s shooting at the Capital Gazette offices in Annapolis, Maryland, in which five people were killed.

At the time of his arrest, the suspect, Jarrod Ramos, was not carrying identification, and police were unable to identify him through his fingerprint. So they turned to the Maryland Image Repository System (MIRS), a collection of driver license photos and mug shots; using facial recognition, they were able to match Ramos against the database.

It’s an example of police authorities’ increasingly common use of facial recognition in criminal investigations, but it’s one that raises some questions among privacy and civil rights advocates. Commenting on the case, ACLU Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani said, “It’s extremely questionable that the police actually needed facial recognition technology to identify this shooter, who had made multiple prior threats, was in custody and was already fingerprinted.”

The county police chief involved in the investigation, meanwhile, had stressed at a press conference last week that it would have taken “much longer” to identify the suspect without the facial recognition system.

The police agency’s emphasis on the benefits of this technology is part of a larger PR battle in the wake of a recent outcry over Amazon and other tech companies’ sales of facial recognition technology to government and police authorities, and a current debate among state legislators in Maryland over whether to establish a task force to look into police use of this kind of technology.

Sources: CNN, CNET

July 3, 2018 – by Alex Perala