Disclaimer: Some of the original information in this article was discovered to be inaccurate. The article has since been updated to reflect the correct information.
NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— City leaders have approved new details outlining the use of facial recognition technology by the New Orleans Police Department. On Thursday, the city council amended the recently-reinstated ordinance, striking down a proposal that would require a court-approved warrant to use the software and mandating that the data collected from the techonology be stored in a database.
According to the ordinance revisions, any officer’s request to use the technology must allign with NOPD policies and be used to investigate crimes outlined in Louisiana Revised Statute 14. The list incorporates more major crimes like murder and arson, but also can include people suspected of cockfighting and even cyberbullying.
However, one thing on the list city leaders emphasize the software will not be used for is for people who seek out or provide abortion services, coinciding with the council’s July ordinance that prohibits city officials and law enforcement from using public funds or resources to enforce Louisiana’s trigger laws. Officers will also be prohibited from using the technology to investigate people with same-sex relationships.
Although the ordinance would no longer require a judge to sign off on the software’s use on a case-by-case basis, the city council has a different role in mind for Orleans Parish Criminal District Court system — receiving and filling logs of information collected by the NOPD. Efforts are in the works to create a group of people from the NOPD, city council, and courts to determine the full responsibility the judicial system will have in the use of the software. The group has until September 30 to submit their findings.
“We are urging the court to be involved in this process, and want them to be a part of a working group with the city council and with the NOPD to develop this process of having the court involved in the utilization of facial recognition technology,” council president Helena Moreno explained.
Finally, perhaps two of the biggest questions citizens have about the technology was also addressed in Thursday’s meeting — what data exactly are the cameras collecting, and will they work? Following each investigation, the NOPD must provide the following information:
- The requesting officer’s name and badge number
- The crime(s) the suspect is accused of
- The suspect’s age, gender, and race
- Any accompanying court or police documents
- Whether the use of the software resulted in a match
- Whether the use of the software resulted in an arrest or pressed charges
This information will be stored in a searchable PDF file, which the NOPD is required to submit quarterly reports on to the council’s Criminal Justice Committee. One year after the ordinance is implemented, the council will combine all the data and review it to determine the effectiveness of the sotware. The use of surveillance technology will go into effect on October 1.