Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Birmingham Reassures: Police Tech Won’t Use Facial Recognition

The city is purchasing software that will produce real-time images of crimes for the police headquarters, but officials have explicitly said the software does not include facial recognition technology.

(TNS) — The City of Birmingham, Ala., is in the process of purchasing Motorola software for its Real Time Crime Center that’s capable of feeding real-time video and pictures of crimes in progress to Birmingham Police Headquarters.

That won’t include facial recognition software - the computerized identification of people through video and pictures, both Mayor Randall Woodfin and the Birmingham City Council emphasized this week.

On Monday afternoon, during the council’s budget and finance meeting, Council member Hunter Williams, chairman of the public safety committee, presented amended language to make it clear that facial recognition was not part of the package that the city was buying.

“We want to put explicit language in place around facial recognition to quell any concerns there might be around that particular technology,” Williams said. “There is obviously a lot of concern, some of it very legitimate, that the city of Birmingham was overstepping and becoming too much of Big Brother,” he said. The council approved the revised language and Williams said the software purchase will likely be on the agenda for next week’s city council meeting on Oct. 20.

Motorola added language to the agreement, per the council’s request:

“Facial recognition capabilities will not be deployed as part of this project,” Motorola said, adding that it would require a change order to add facial recognition.

“This vendor does offer that type of technology,” Williams said. “We are using it specifically for our Real Time Crime Center, and not to find probable cause from facial recognition.”

Woodfin weighed in on the matter on Monday afternoon.

“Multiple studies have shown that facial recognition software is unreliable and mis-identifies people of color at alarming rates,” Woodfin said in a statement released on Twitter. “Despite any rumors to the contrary, the City of Birmingham is not investing in facial recognition software now or anytime during my administration.”

The Real Time Crime Center already includes technology such as license plate reading software, which uses video to read license plates and help track down possible criminal suspects.

The new software can relay live video from police body cameras and from police car dash cameras to the Real Time Crime Center, Williams said.

Opponents of the software purchase say they would rather the city fully fund its library system than spend money on Motorola’s Command Central and BriefCam software for the Real Time Crime Center, said Rob Burton, an activist with the People’s Budget, which opposed the city’s recently adopted 2021 budget with drastic cuts to account for a $63 million revenue shortfall, including cuts and closures to the city library system.

“We’re opposed to both softwares,” Burton said. “We want to know why they’re choosing this software if they’re not looking for facial recognition. We don’t believe we should be spending $1.315 million on this software in the middle of a pandemic.”

Burton said even without facial recognition technology, the software could be used to monitor legally protected political activities such as protests and rallies. “That’s something we’re concerned about,” Burton said.

©2020 Alabama Media Group, Birmingham. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Special Projects
Sponsored Stories
Workplace safety is in the spotlight as government leaders adapt to a prolonged pandemic.
While government employees, students and the general public had to wait in line for hours in the beginning of the pandemic, at-home test kits make it easy to diagnose for the novel coronavirus in less than 30 minutes.
Governments around the nation are working to design the best vaccine policies that keep both their employees and their residents safe. Although the latest data shows a variety of polarizing perspectives, there are clear emerging best practices that leading governments are following to put trust first: creating policies that are flexible and provide a range of options, and being in tune with the needs and sentiments of their employees so that they are able to be dynamic and accommodate the rapidly changing situation.
Service delivery and the individual experience within health and human services (HHS) is often very siloed and fragmented.
In this episode, Marianne Steger explains why health care for Pre-Medicare retirees and active employees just got easier.
Government organizations around the world are experiencing the consequences of plagiarism firsthand. A simple mistake can lead to loss of reputation, loss of trust and even lawsuits. It’s important to avoid plagiarism at all costs, and government organizations are held to a particularly high standard. Fortunately, technological solutions such as iThenticate allow government organizations to avoid instances of text plagiarism in an efficient manner.
Creating meaningful citizen experiences in a post-COVID world requires embracing digital initiatives like secure and ethical data sharing, artificial intelligence and more.
GHD identified four themes critical for municipalities to address to reach net-zero by 2050. Will you be ready?
As more state and local jurisdictions have placed a priority on creating sustainable and resilient communities, many have set strong targets to reduce the energy use and greenhouse gases (GHGs) associated with commercial and residential buildings.