That’s right. Face recognition use by police in the United States is very, very common. Over half of all American adults are in a database that’s used for criminal investigations, thanks to getting a driver’s license. Robert Williams was not identified through a former mugshot; he was identified through his driver’s license, which most of us have. In addition, we estimate conservatively that over a quarter of all 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country have access to use face recognition. The most concerning feature is that there are few if any rules governing how this technology can or, more importantly, cannot be used.
Germany’s top security and justice officials are at odds over calls to study the use of racial profiling by police, a practice that human rights activists say is widespread in the country. Earlier this year, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance recommended that federal and state police in Germany commission a study into the use of racial profiling. Germany’s Interior Ministry, which oversees federal police, initially agreed to the idea, but a ministry spokesman backtracked on Monday.
Without legal safeguards, this technology will undermine democratic values and fundamental rights.
Many of this militarized equipment is transferred through two federal programs: the 1033 and the 1122 initiatives. The 1122 program allows the police to purchase new military equipment using their own funding with the same discounts enjoyed by the federal government. The 1033 program allows the Department of Defense to transfer excess military equipment to local law enforcement agencies free of charge, as long as they pay for shipping and maintenance. Since its inception, more than 11,500 domestic law enforcement agencies have taken part in the 1033 program, receiving more than $7.4 billion in military equipment. After the Ferguson protests, several attempts were made to amend the 1033 program but were either met with opposition or rescinded in later years.
State lawmakers are churning out more proposed laws to hold cops accountable for misconduct. A bill introduced by state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx) would require police officers to obtain personal liability insurance to cover civil lawsuits filed against them for excessive force and other abuses as a way to deter misconduct. Under current law, cops who are sued are represented by the city law department and taxpayers foot the bill for any verdict or settlement. Biaggi’s proposal would require each officer to obtain individual liability insurance. The city or other local governments would still be required to cover the basic insurance policy to cover tort litigation costs.