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Colorado police cautious about facial recognition technology


The Colorado Information Sharing Consortium executive director David Shipley recently told Colorado Public Radio that the organization tested facial recognition technology two years ago, only to discover that it couldn’t be effectively used to help local police.

The organization manages COPLINK, a database used by Colorado law enforcement agencies to share crucial information regarding criminal activity with each other.

Shipley said that police investigators would be more than happy to use facial recognition technology if it proved to be effective enough, including possibly integrating the technology with body cameras.

“All of our members would love to have this technology,” Shipley said. “We would love to be able to identify that crook, that person who is about to harm somebody else and stop them before they do because of some past crime and we’re able to identify them.

“But it’s just not that easy. It’s something that we must be able to make sure we don’t damage individual reputations. We don’t take somebody into custody that has not be proven responsible for a criminal act.”

In the event that facial recognition technology becomes available in Colorado, police agencies should consult with communities and discuss its potential uses before it goes through with implementing the technology, said Shipley.

Colorado Springs Police Commander Pat Rigdon recently oversaw the purchase of 500 body cameras that his department hopes to implement by early 2016.

He said that the department is concerned about the overall effectiveness of facial recognition, but also believes there could be some limited uses for the technology.

Echoing Shipley’s remarks, Rigdon also believes that the department should first engage with the public before deciding to add facial recognition technology to body cameras in an effort to determine their capabilities.

“I think that would really be an area where we’d really have to have some community input on if they valued that technology here in Colorado Springs if we’d implement that or not,” said Rigdon.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado also supports the use of body cameras because they make police departments more accountable to the public, but also acknowledges there are inherent issues regarding the use of facial recognition technology, said the organization’s public policy director Denise Maes.

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