The Los Angeles Police Department wants half a million federal dollars to expand the use of advanced facial-recognition systems to identify criminal suspects, says the Los Angeles Times. “It’s like a mobile electronic mug book,” said police Capt. Charles Beck. “It’s not a silver bullet, but we wouldn’t use it unless it helped us make arrests.” Civil liberties advocates question its reliability and the privacy issues it raises.
The potential of the technology could be seen in a recent police stop just west of downtown Los Angeles. Two young men were illegally riding double on a bicycle. Two officers suspected the two were gang members. An officer pointed a hand-held computer with a camera attached toward the man on the bicycle seat. Within seconds, the screen had displayed a gallery of nine faces with contours similar to the man’s. The computer concluded that one of those images – of Jose Hernandez was the closest match, with a 94 percent probability of accuracy. It was enough to trigger a search, and officers say they found a small amount of methamphetamine on one of the men – later confirmed to be Hernandez.