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US cities weigh value of facial recognition for police

US cities weigh value of facial recognition for police

After a lull in efforts to put significant restrictions on how police in the U.S. can use facial recognition, politicians might be warming again to curbing the use of the software.

In September, Ann Arbor, Mich., is expected to vote on a ban on using facial recognition as the sole or primary evidence in prosecutions. In Massachusetts, state lawmakers also are working on a bill to limit police use of facial recognition.

The push to limit facial recognition has seemed to fizzle. By the end of 2020, roughly 18 cities had laws banning the use of facial recognition in policing. In 2021, bans in five more municipalities passed. But no bans took place in 2022 and 2023, and some have even been repealed.

New Orleans overturned a ban on police use of the software in July 2022. A recent report examined the city’s police use of facial recognition from October 1, 2022 to July 1, 2023 and found that zero arrests were made. During this time, facial recognition was used 13 times and found potential identities in five cases, two of which were judged “bad matches.”

Police made 15 requests with the software, 14 of which were to identify black males recorded by cameras and one to identify a black female. One request was canceled because police identified the suspect through other means, while another was denied because it violated a department’s policy limiting the use of facial recognition to crimes connected with violent crimes or with a missing person.

Other regions are making arrests using facial recognition. In western New York, for instance, police used facial recognition on bank robbery security footage to arrest and charge a man with third-degree robbery and fourth-degree grand larceny.

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