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US city board wants more than executive order on police use of facial recognition

US city board wants more than executive order on police use of facial recognition

Facial recognition is the means to many ends across the United States. The mayor of St. Louis, Mo., for instance, wants it to resurrect red-light and speed cameras.

An eight-year program of using CCTV to convict dangerous driving in the city was ended in 2015 when the state Supreme Court judged it unconstitutional because it put the burden of a key proof on the accused.

The mayor and at least some city board members say facial recognition algorithms would impose on government the burden of proving the identity of suspect drivers. Using cameras alone forced the accused to prove they were not the driver caught on video surveillance.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones has issued an executive order spelling out AI surveillance policies for police. That order has not found overwhelming support among board members, who feel will be ineffective.

They are pushing for a more-thoughtful response in the form of a publicly debated law, which unlike an executive order, can’t be changed by a subsequent mayor. At least two bills have been introduced, according to government news publication StateScoop.

The subtext of the back-and-forth is that just a short drive northwest of St. Louis is the city of Ferguson. In 2014, Michael Brown Jr. was killed by Ferguson police officers. Brown’s killing incited social justice demonstrations and some rioting.

(San Francisco is debating similar issues. There the public is largely in favor of giving police more powers with the exception of facial recognition software.)

Some of those in St. Louis opposing the executive order say government leaders nationwide but especially in their region of Missouri have to demonstrate that police policies are equitable, transparent and proportionate.

The board in September introduced Bill 105 to redeploy traffic cameras with the addition of facial recognition. A second bill, 185, would create AI surveillance use policies.

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