Published on August 15th, 2020 📆 | 6632 Views ⚑0
NYPD Used Facial Recognition Technology In Siege Of Black Lives Matter Activist’s Apartment
The NYPD deployed facial recognition technology in its hunt for a prominent Black Lives Matter activist, whose home was besieged by dozens of officers and police dogs last week, a spokesperson confirmed to Gothamist.
Derrick Ingram, the 28-year-old co-founder of Warriors in the Garden, was targeted by officers in riot gear during an hours-long NYPD raid on August 7th, after allegedly shouting into a police officer’s ear during a June protest against police brutality. More than 50 officers surrounded his Hell’s Kitchen apartment, shutting down his street and urging him to voluntarily surrender, as NYPD helicopters hovered overhead.
In a video shared online by FreedomNewsTV, an officer can be seen outside Ingram’s apartment holding an “Informational Lead Report” from the NYPD’s Facial Identification Section. The report also shows a photo of Ingram.
In response to Gothamist’s questions, a spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed that facial recognition software was used during the course of the investigation.
“The NYPD uses facial recognition as a limited investigative tool, comparing a still image from a surveillance video to a pool of lawfully possessed arrest photos,” the spokesperson said, adding that “no one has ever been arrested solely on the basis of a computer match.”
The NYPD’s photo of Ingram appears to be taken from his Instagram page. It’s unclear how a social media post would constitute either a surveillance video image or an arrest photo, and a spokesperson for the department did not respond to follow up inquiries.
“We’re being specifically targeted with this technology because of what we’re protesting and because we’re trying to deconstruct a system that they’re a part of,” Ingram told Gothamist after he was shown the images. “It’s a waste of taxpayer money and dollars that could be reallocated to people struggling throughout this city.”
The department’s Facial Identification Section uses facial recognition software to identify possible suspects in thousands of cases each year. The software draws on a massive internal database of mugshots to generate possible matches, which are then analyzed by investigators for reliability, according to the department.
After a BuzzFeed investigation revealed that the NYPD was a frequent user of Clearview, a controversial facial recognition firm which collects photos of Americans without their consent, the police department released their first set of public guidelines on its use of the technology. The internal regulations are non-binding, and there is currently no city law governing the department’s use of the surveillance technology.
The NYPD has previously stated that the technology is used to gather leads on suspects for crimes, such as robberies and shootings, not to identify people in crowds or at rallies. (The NYPD contends that Ingram’s yelling into a bullhorn caused an officer temporary hearing damage and constitutes an assault.)
Dorothy Weldon, an attorney for Ingram, called on the Manhattan District Attorney to disclose relevant discovery information, including alleged identification tactics used in the arrest. “We look forward to uncovering what role, if any, this problematic technology played in officers’ decision to, without a warrant, mount a five-hour intimidation campaign against Mr. Ingram that interfered with his constitutional rights,” she said
The Mayor’s Office and the NYPD did not respond to questions about what role facial recognition technology may have played in the lead-up to the confrontation.
According to Ingram’s criminal complaint, Officer Desirae LaFurno, an officer with the Internal Affairs Bureau, confirmed that Ingram was the one who yelled in her ear with the megaphone. Police have not provided footage of the alleged incident, despite repeated requests.
“It’s so alarming when we see the tools that are sold to the public as away to fight terrorism and violent crime being used to silence dissent,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. “We would never have seen this level of police response for using a bullhorn if the message hadn’t been one opposed to the NYPD,” he added.
Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD detective sergeant and adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, argued Ingram’s alleged violation provided grounds for the department to investigate using the technology. “If you don’t wanna get hunted down by the police, don’t be yelling in cops’ ears with bullhorns,” he said. “When protesters cross the line and they’re doing stuff like this, then it’s no longer peaceable, and all bets are off at that point.”
Last month, following widespread protests against police, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Police Oversight of Surveillance Technology, which would force the department to disclose more information about its surveillance capabilities. He previously opposed the legislation, arguing that privacy protections were “baked in” to the department’s practice.
Asked this week if he was concerned about police targeting activists, the mayor said that recent controversial arrests were isolated incidents, made without the approval of the department’s highest-ranking members.
“This police department is never going to interfere with people’s rights to protest,” he said. “It is a fundamental right and in fact, New York City over the years has done a damn good job in protecting that right.”
This story was updated with comment from the NYPD.