California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed more than two dozen criminal justice reform bills Tuesday, including measures that bar law enforcement from using facial recognition software in body cameras, speed up the expungement process and end certain sentencing enhancements, reports Courthouse News Service. Newsom said, “These bills show a new path to ensure our state moves closer toward a more equitable criminal justice system.” Law enforcement agencies must wait at least three years before equipping officers with body cameras installed with biometric surveillance technology that can systematically take and store photos. The American Civil Liberties Union and other critics of facial recognition technology want to keep law enforcement from installing the software on officer body cameras until developers such as Amazon and Microsoft can work out the kinks. The group claims the budding technology is prone to misidentifying minorities.
The measure was widely opposed by law enforcement groups who painted the ban as “heavy-handed.” Supporters cited ACLU studies that used Amazon’s facial recognition software, called Rekognition, to cross-check 120 California legislators against a database of 25,000 publicly available mugshots. The algorithm falsely identified 26 of the lawmakers. Also included in the 25 criminal justice bills signed by Newsom is a measure that tasks the state with implementing a system that will automatically expunge certain arrest records. Supporters say the process will reduce recidivism and make it easier for people to apply for jobs and public housing. Another new law ends a longstanding one-year sentencing enhancement applied to an individual’s base sentence for each prior prison or felony jail terms served. The bill’s author said the enhancements were major contributors to California’s mass incarceration crisis.