The Los Angeles Police Commission unanimously approved oversight measures for the use of a facial recognition tool that civil rights groups say is riddled with racial bias and doesn’t enhance police work, reports Courthouse News Service. The L.A. Police Department can authorize its members’ use of the L.A. County Regional Identification System (LACRIS), which compares images collected by officers against a database of nearly nine million mugshots. Law enforcement’s use of facial recognition tools has faced a powerful reckoning in the past year. Concerns from civil rights organizations that facial recognition tools contribute to unlawful mass surveillance and racial profiling led to the technology’s being banned in a number of places, including San Francisco and Boston.
Last year, Amazon implemented a one-year moratorium on municipal police departments’ use of its facial recognition tool. Last past November, LAPD was forced to bar its employees from using third-party facial recognition software in police work after BuzzFeed News found department members used commercial software called Clearview AI without authorization more than 400 times. On Tuesday, L.A.Police Chief Michel Moore said the department’s use of LACRIS “strikes a balance” between making necessary police work more efficient and protecting people’s civil rights. Moore said his officers’ use of LACRIS has solved murder cases and infused investigations with efficiency and that any criminal cases must eventually pass constitutional muster in court. “The technology is nothing but a lead. It does not and cannot provide probable cause,” said police official Liz Rhodes. Mohammad Tajsar of the American Civil Liberties Union told commissioners the LAPD has provided no evidence that using LACRIS or other facial recognition tools made people safer or helped reduce crime. Some 931 of 943 people who made a public comment on the issue opposed LAPD’s use of LACRIS.