The Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday said it would review the city Police Department's use of facial recognition software and how it compared with programs in other major cities. The commission did so after citing reporting by The Times this week that publicly revealed the scope of the LAPD's use of facial recognition for the first time -- including that hundreds of LAPD officers have used it nearly 30,000 times since 2009. Critics say police denials of its use are part of a long pattern of deception and that transparency is essential, given potential privacy and civil rights infringements. Commission President Eileen Decker said a subcommittee of the commission would "do a deeper dive" into the technology's use and "work with the department in terms of analyzing the oversight mechanisms" for the system. "It's a good time to take a global look at this issue," Decker said.
The Los Angeles Police Department has used facial-recognition software nearly 30,000 times since 2009, with hundreds of officers running images of suspects from surveillance cameras and other sources against a massive database of mugshots taken by law enforcement. The new figures, released to The Times, reveal for the first time how commonly facial recognition is used in the department, which for years has provided vague and contradictory information about how and whether it uses the technology. The LAPD has consistently denied having records related to facial recognition, and at times denied using the technology at all. The truth is that, while it does not have its own facial-recognition platform, LAPD personnel have access to facial-recognition software through a regional database maintained by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. And between Nov. 6, 2009, and Sept. 11 of this year, LAPD officers used the system's software 29,817 times.
The U.S. Postal Service says that mail is again being delivered at Mar Vista Gardens, a public housing complex with more than 1,800 residents, after an outcry from local leaders over delivery being suspended. "The idea that a decision was made to delay mail in the middle of a pandemic is heinous," said U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), who initiated a formal inquiry into the decision. "How many of those packages were medications? How many were letters from loved ones? Last month, Culver City Post Office Postmaster Roderick Strong suspended delivery to the 43-acre complex in the neighborhood of Del Rey, stating that safety issues were putting mail carriers at risk.
A visiting researcher at UCLA has been arrested and charged with destroying evidence, the latest Chinese national to face accusations in U.S. courts of trying to conceal ties to China's military or government institutions. The FBI began investigating Guan Lei in July, suspecting he had committed visa fraud and possibly transferred "sensitive software or technical data" from UCLA, where he studied machine-learning algorithms in the school's mathematics department, to "high-ranking" officials in the Chinese military, an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit. Guan, 29, isn't charged with those crimes. Instead he's accused of destroying evidence after agents, staking out his apartment in Irvine, saw him pull a computer hard drive from his sock and throw it into a trash bin, Agent Timothy D. Hurt wrote in the affidavit. Guan discarded the damaged drive days after being interviewed by investigators and attempting to board a flight back to China, Hurt wrote.
Mail delivery has been suspended at Mar Vista Gardens, a public housing complex with more than 1,800 tenants in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Del Rey, forcing residents to pick up mail and packages at a Culver City facility over a mile away. Culver City Post Office Postmaster Roderick Strong told officials at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles this week that mail delivery was immediately being put on hold because of safety issues at the 43-acre housing complex. Strong had previously cited safety issues as a reason to set up centralized banks of mailboxes at Mar Vista Gardens instead of delivering mail to each door, an idea that troubled residents of the complex. Tenant leaders had raised concerns about voting in the upcoming elections and questioned why the same changes were not happening in wealthier areas. An L.A. politico helped select the new postmaster general.
These are the small group gatherings that are the source of the ongoing surge of COVID-19 infections among students at USC. As the university enters its second week of classes, it's not large shoulder-to-shoulder parties that are the top worry. It's the common, day-to-day interactions among groups of 10 or fewer friends and housemates who live in thousands of privately owned apartments and houses that surround the campus. The situation underscores the challenges other colleges in California face as classes resume this fall, including UCLA, where classes begin Sept. 28. Dr. Sarah Van Orman, chief health officer for USC Student Health, said that since her last update on Monday, 104 new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed -- including the first three on campus -- marking 147 total cases this week.
On the first day of school at Weaverville Elementary, third-grade teacher Saundra Murphy asked the 14 boys and girls in her class if anyone could define the phrase "social distancing." "Social distancing means staying 6 feet or more away from each other," said a boy in a "Minecraft" T-shirt, his voice muffled by a camouflage face mask. "Does that mean we don't like the person?" The students shook their heads. "Does that mean we're just trying to be safe and respectful of our situation?"
Renters at the Mar Vista Gardens public housing complex were skeptical as Roderick Strong laid out the plan: Instead of getting mail delivered to their doors, residents would pick it up at new, centralized spots around the 43-acre community in Del Rey, a Los Angeles neighborhood west of Culver City. Strong, the Culver City Post Office postmaster, called the new system "the launch of a new era." He said the shift was being considered to ensure the safety of mail carriers who had been menaced by dog bites and other threats. Few tenants seemed swayed, however, as they listened by phone and the web during a remote meeting on a recent weekday. Daisy Vega, president of the resident advisory council, asked Strong why such a change was being planned for their housing complex and not for "the other side of town."
Numbers can be multiplied, subtracted and squared in a vacuum, alone in a room. Books, too, on almost any subject, can be processed independently. Emotions, on the other hand, are typically experienced -- and learned -- in context, among people, in a social environment. That's why some California parents are concerned that virtual learning, mandated in areas that have seen a spike in coronavirus cases, might impede their school-age children's social and emotional learning. Experts agree it's not something to take lightly.
Maria Viego and Cooper Glynn were thriving at their elementary schools. Maria, 10, adored the special certificates she earned volunteering to read to second-graders. Cooper, 9, loved being with his friends and how his teacher incorporated the video game Minecraft into lessons. But when their campuses shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, their experiences diverged dramatically. Maria is a student in the Coachella Valley Unified School District, where 90% of the children are from low-income families. She didn't have a computer, so she and her mother tried using a cellphone to access her online class, but the connection kept dropping, and they gave up after a week. She did worksheets until June, when she at last received a computer, but struggled to understand the work. Now, as school starts again online, she has told her mother she's frustrated and worried.