Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

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

New Orleans Police Have Used Facial Recognition for Years

New records reveal that the New Orleans Police Department has been partnering with state police to use facial recognition software since, at least, 2018. The city did not admit use of the technology until last month.

(TNS) — Although the practice was long shrouded in secrecy, the New Orleans Police Department has used a partnership with the Louisiana State Police to run face recognition searches since at least 2018, newly released records show.

The records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana detail the formal process used by NOPD detectives to request facial recognition searches from the State Police Fusion Center. The civil rights non-profit made the documents public Monday.

The records also show several examples of police requesting help identifying people, from a simple robbery to a gun theft.

The documents underscore the need for the city to impose a ban on facial recognition technology in policing, the ACLU of Louisiana said. Several U.S. cities have done so this year. "Facial recognition technology is a dangerous and racially biased tool that invades people's privacy and is ineffective at combating crime," said Alanah Odoms, executive director of the civil rights group. "These disturbing revelations underscore the need for the New Orleans City Council to end these abuses and pass sensible reforms that will ban the use of facial recognition technology and allow for more effective approaches to reducing crime."

Before last month, the NOPD had never made public its use of facial recognition software and repeatedly stated that it doesn't own such software. A city official said this summer that the city doesn't use facial recognition.

However, in November the Lens reported that the NOPD instead went through partnerships with state and federal agencies to run those searches. City Council members like Jason Williams and Jay Banks told the outlet that they had never been informed.

The city had also told the ACLU in response to a public records request that it does not "employ" facial recognition software — although a spokesman later claimed that "employ" meant own the software directly.

On Monday, an NOPD spokesman said Superintendent Shaun Ferguson had "never denied" using facial recognition "in certain violent cases."

However, the spokesman, Kenneth Jones, didn't answer a question about how long the department has used facial recognition software. He said the department has "strict guidelines" around the use of the technology, although he didn't answer a question about whether those guidelines are written.

"Currently, the NOPD is in the process of updating the use of a number investigatory tools and techniques. As for the use of Facial Recognition Technology, we have been working with Councilman Jason Williams' office to develop the most appropriate use of this tool," Jones said.

The records obtained by the ACLU show that the State Police warn local partners that facial recognition matches are intended to be used as "an investigative lead only and not to be considered a positive identification of any subject."

But the ACLU and other groups question whether cops presented with a positive match from a database will leap to conclusions about a person's guilt, despite research that shows facial recognition algorithms are 10 to 100 times more likely to misidentify a Black person versus a White person.

Detroit police in January wrongfully accused a Black man of shoplifting as a result of a facial recognition match and nothing else — despite being presented with a similar warning that the match should be treated as an "investigative" lead only, the New York Times reported.

Williams, who was elected the city's next district attorney on Dec. 5, has proposed an ordinance limiting the NOPD's use of surveillance technology, including facial recognition. A spokesman didn't immediately comment Monday on whether the legislation will receive a vote before Williams takes office as DA on Jan. 11.

(c)2020 The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Special Projects
Sponsored Stories
In recent years, local governments have been forced to adapt to a wildly changing world, especially as it pertains to sending bills and collecting payments.
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?