The Mayor of West Lafayette, Indiana, has followed through on his promise to veto a proposed facial recognition ban. The ban had originally been put forward by a group of West Lafayette residents in July, though City Council opted to delay their own discussion twice before eventually bringing it to vote on November 1, at which point it passed with a 5-4 margin.
However, it seems unlikely that Ordinance No. 15-21 will ever become official law. In July, Mayor John Dennis came out strongly in favor of facial recognition, arguing that its potential utility as an investigative tool should outweigh the public’s concerns about accuracy and bias. He then vowed to veto the Ordinance, which would prevent the police from using the technology to identify suspects.
Dennis served as a deputy chief to the Lafayette Police Department before becoming Mayor, and defended the police use of facial recognition prior to the City Council’s vote. West Lafayette Police Chief Troy Harris also spoke out against the ban. Their words did not sway City Council, but Dennis immediately said that he would refuse to sign the bill, and that it is effectively dead from a procedural standpoint. The Ordinance will not go into effect, and cannot be introduced for a set period of time.
Dennis indicated that he was open to further discussion about facial recognition, though he reaffirmed his support for the technology and stated that any future bill would need to be revised before he would consider signing it. He did not offer as many details about what he would consider to be acceptable, though any bill would presumably need to guarantee the police’s right to use facial recognition.
The trouble, from a public policy perspective, is that the police have not always been responsible with facial recognition. For example, the technology has led to false arrests, and many departments have tried to cover up their use of the technology. Civic concerns about that lack of oversight have already led to police facial recognition bans in several other jurisdictions, including Portland and San Francisco.
Source: Lafayette Journal & Courier
November 4, 2021 – by Eric Weiss