The Mayor of West Lafayette, Indiana, is throwing himself in front of a bill that would ban the police use of facial recognition. The West Lafayette City Council has postponed discussion about Ordinance No. 15-21 until September, but Mayor John Dennis has already stated that he will veto the bill when it does come to a vote.
Ordinance 15-21 would ban the use of automated and semi-automated identification tools that use physical facial characteristics to verify someone’s identity.
The Ordinance was originally put forward by a group of West Lafayette citizens. They were particularly concerned about the potential for racial bias, noting that the technology can have a disproportionate impact on minority communities because it is more likely to misidentify people with darker skin.
Dennis acknowledged those concerns, but largely dismissed them in his eagerness to articulate the technology’s law enforcement applications. He believes that the police should be able to use facial recognition to identify suspects, and suggested that that consideration should outweigh any accuracy issues because the match is only supposed to serve as the starting point for a more rigorous investigation.
Of course, that stance ignores the fact that the police have not always displayed that level of rigor in practice. For example, a Black man in Michigan was arrested based solely on a false recognition match, even though he had an alibi that would have exonerated him had the police performed even a cursory follow-up investigation prior to the arrest. The Michigan police had similarly claimed that facial recognition would only be used to guide subsequent investigations.
In that regard, it is worth noting that Dennis worked in law enforcement before making his run for Mayor.
Multiple municipalities have either passed or proposed facial recognition bans in the past few years, beginning with San Francisco’s ban in 2019. Boston, Minneapolis, and Portland are some of the other jurisdictions that have moved forward with facial recognition legislation.
Source: Lafayette Journal & Courier
July 13, 2021 – by Eric Weiss