New Orleans City Council votes on security measures for facial recognition technology

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — Before the city council voted on Ordinance 33,809, local advocates voiced their concerns about how NOPD is now allowed to use facial recognition software.

Natalie Sharp of the New Orleans Voice for Accountability said, “There is almost no security around the use of technology right now and we are counting on NOPD to follow its own rules without any systems to ensure accountability ” ,

Sharp was one of many present on Thursday (August 4) who are totally against the technique. The council gave the New Orleans Police Department approval to use the technology weeks ago. It was expected that the department would have another tool to help identify suspects at a time when there are less than 1,000 officers on the force.

However, some advocates were concerned about what the NOPD was allowed to do under the original ordinance.

“The current ordinance gives the NOPD and state officials free reign to basically write their own rules for the use of technology and simply give their word to the council and the city that they will abide by those rules,” said Chris Kaiser, of the ACLU. Advocacy Director Louisiana, said. “Promises are great but that’s not how checks and balances work. That’s not how government segregation works.”

Most commentators, both in-person and online, were in support of the council’s new ordinance, which would introduce safeguards.

One of the main tasks is to educate criminal court judges on the technology and the process the NOPD uses to obtain approval to use it.

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Council President Helena Moreno said, “They would like to be part of a separate discussion with the Council, with the NOPD, with different advocates.”

The hope is that if judges agree, they will serve as the final seal of approval that is needed for an officer to use the technology.

“We wanted to conduct an additional external investigation, which means we wanted the criminal district court to also investigate whether they also accepted the use of facial recognition technology based on the fact that the special officer used the But had followed the NOPD policy of facial recognition technology,” Moreno said.

All six council members in attendance voted in favor of the ordinance.

Originally, the additional protection was an amendment that Moreno and other council members struggled to bring to the original ordinance. But Moreno missed that council meeting due to illness and the measure did not pass.

Now, the council hopes it will bring more trust and accountability to the police department and provide more protections to certain communities and even to women seeking help with abortions.

“We need to protect people in New Orleans who are exercising their reproductive rights and who are LGBTQIA+ members,” councilwoman Leslie Harris said.

Council members also acknowledged that more changes could come as facial recognition technology develops.

“It’s too big of a deal not to be perfect. So I want to make sure we’re all okay and I don’t want to be up here just talking. I really want to be shoes on the ground,” counselor Freddie King III said.

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