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.
When you want the public to trust your use of controversial facial recognition technology linked to two prominent wrongful arrests of Black men, it's perhaps best not to claim you aren't using it in the first place. The Los Angeles Police Department was on the defensive Monday after a Los Angeles Times report found that, despite previous statements to the contrary, the LAPD does in fact use facial recognition tech -- often, in fact. What's more, the software in question, a product of South Carolina company DataWorks Plus, is itself no stranger to controversy. According to the Times, over 300 LAPD officers have access to facial recognition software, and the department used it almost 30,000 times between November of 2009 and September of this year. In 2019, LAPD spokesperson Josh Rubenstein painted a very different picture of his department's relationship with facial recognition tech.
For years, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) hasn't given a clear answer on whether it uses facial recognition in its policing work. On Monday, the agency told The Los Angeles Times it has used the technology nearly 30,000 times since late 2009. The LAPD uses the Los Angeles County Regional Identification System (LACRIS), a database of more than 9 million mugshots maintained by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. At one point, more than 500 LAPD personnel had access to the system, though the department claims that the number is closer to 300 in recent months. Josh Rubenstein, a spokesperson for the LAPD, said he couldn't be sure how many arrests LACRIS has helped the police department make.
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.
Many of California's local law enforcement agencies have access to facial recognition software for identifying suspects who appear in crime scene footage, documents obtained through public records requests show. Three California counties also have the capability to run facial recognition searches on each others' mug shot databases, and others could join if they choose to opt into a network maintained by a private law enforcement software company. The network is called California Facial Recognition Interconnect, and it's a service offered by DataWorks Plus, a Greenville, South Carolina–based company with law enforcement contracts in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Santa Barbara. Currently, the three adjacent counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino are able to run facial recognition against mug shots in each other's databases. That means these police departments have access to about 11.7 million mug shots of people who have previously been arrested, a majority of which come from the Los Angeles system.
A Los Angeles police officer wears an Axon body camera in 2017. On Thursday, the company announced it is holding off on facial recognition software, citing its unreliability. A Los Angeles police officer wears an Axon body camera in 2017. On Thursday, the company announced it is holding off on facial recognition software, citing its unreliability. The largest manufacturer of police body cameras is rejecting the possibility of selling facial recognition technology – at least, for now.