Board of Police Commissioners delays vote on facial recognition technology

Posted at 6:54 PM, Jun 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-28 12:05:11-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — On Thursday, Detroit's Board of Police Commissioners postponed a vote on the Detroit Police Department's use of facial recognition technology.

The board was supposed to consider and vote upon new guidelines for the software, which has sparked debate in the past.

During Thursday's meeting, the board said it would delay a vote on the issue until the policy is further discussed between Police Chief James Craig and Mayor Mike Duggan.

The department has used facial recognition for about a year under standard operation procedures, but no formal policy has been put in place. Critics of the software have said it's not always accurate, especially when it comes to identifying people of color.

Chief Craig said the technology allows officers another tool to keep Detroiters safe.

“Facial recognition technology is stand alone," Craig said. "It is not integrated into Green Light."

Rather, he said the software can be used on any still image, taken from any camera.

“We don’t randomly use it," Craig said. "The only time we use it is to identify individuals who are involved in violence – violent crimes."

Crimes like carjacking, home invasion, robbery, murder, or sexual assault would all be qualifiers to employ the technology.

While facial recognition software within police departments has sparked a lot of debate, the Detroiters we spoke with didn't have a problem with the technology.

“I don’t have a problem with it because I think it’s safety for the public," said Pam Mosley.

Chief Craig compared the technology to more precise police sketches, and said it's just one piece of evidence officers use.

“It’s already hard enough to catch them as is,"said Detroiter Howard Mallory. "You get racial recognition, it’s a little better."

The technology would not be used in a livestream capacity to identify a person in real time, unless a situation posed a serious public safety emergency, according to Chief Craig.

“It would have to be a significant emergency for us to deploy the software in that manner," he said.

Chief Craig said he would be the individual to make that call as to whether or not employ the technology into a livestream.

The chief noted a couple of recent cases in which facial recognition led officers to their suspect, including a triple homicide of three members of the LGBT community this past spring.

In terms of misidentifying a suspect, Chief Craig said those metrics are tracked, but didn't have the data readily available.

This is a developing story.