Broward County Police Departments exploring the use of facial recognition technology to identify criminals

Facial Recognition 3D rendering – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Vikks

Technology that once seemed only possible in movies is making its way to Broward County law enforcement departments in an effort to “accurately” identify criminals.

However, many residents and critics believe the Pembroke Pines department and other departments across the state could be crossing the line by using such powerful technology and could potentially discriminate against certain racial demographics.

To better identify criminals, the system uses tools such as state IDs and booking mugshots registered with the state for a streamlined identification process. 

The Pembroke Pines police department has an agreement with the state to access the Face Analysis Comparison Examination System (FACES). With more than 30 million images for facial recognition comparisons, the software uses various data-points assigning every face in the database a unique number for identification. The system is currently manned out of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

With great power comes even greater responsibility. 

Pembroke Pines Commissioner Angelo Castillo believes the technology can be used for good and highlighted the need for guidelines that govern when and how the system is used to avoid abuse of power. In a workshop last week, Castillo pushed for written guidelines that would shape the way the technology is used going forward within the city.

“This is going to be governed and managed, knowing that this is a tool of incredibly powerful use, but it’s also a highly suspect tool,” said Castillo.

FACES uses an image or video footage to map unique facial features in an effort to make more accurate suspect IDs and aid investigations. But like any system, it has flaws. Critics were quick to point out the system has had misidentifications in the past and specifically among the Hispanic and black communities.  

Florida’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told Local 10 News that the system and similar ID technology “Pose a threat to our constitutional rights, but also to people of color and other marginalized groups who are more likely to be misidentified—and bear the consequences.” The ACLU is strongly against the Pembroke Pines department’s use of FACES.

Castillo added, “We’re not going to be using this in patrol cars, and we’re not going to be arresting people solely on how they appear.”     

While the benefits of the technology certainly add to current law enforcement tools, it also comes with speculation that it will be misused beyond control. FACES will likely be used in conjunction with current facial recognition tactics as an additional form of verification in investigations.  

The system was created in 2001 and now serves as the nation’s largest facial recognition database.

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