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Baltimore County Police body-worn camera supplier rejects facial recognition technology

Posted at 5:36 PM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-03 09:32:06-04

TOWSON, Md. — Since 2017, it's been the extra tool in the toolbox.

The 'in your face' body-worn cameras that Baltimore County Police spokesman Corporal Shawn Vinson says have supplemented officers' patrol work.

"It's held our officers accountable. It's assisted us in criminal investigations -- most recently, in the trial of the person who was responsible for killing Officer Amy Caprio," said Corporal Shawn Vinson. "The body-camera footage, Officer Caprio's footage, during the trial played a key element."

But the vendor for those cameras, Axon Enterprise, Incorporated, is putting a halt on cutting edge technology --- facial recognition --- the concept of using the cameras to I.D. and in some cases impeded on a person's privacy.

Axon released a report citing why the technology comes with 'serious concerns' including falsely identifying someone, particularly when it comes to gender and race.

While county and city police haven't publicly pushed for upgrading their tech for that, Vinson says before it all, the department should work on ways to better transparency within the community.

"Right now, it's a balancing thing where we have to work with the state's attorney's office and work with our investigators to make sure that releasing footage isn't going to hamper our investigation or isn't going to put anyone in danger," Vinson said.

The near 1500 patrolling officers in the county are all equipped with the body cameras.

Axon says using the facial recognition technology makes it far easier for government entities to surveil citizens and potentially intrude into their lives, and should be a concern to every individual -- inaccuracies they will reconsider once the issues are resolved.

It's a long ways away for the police departments --- for now.

"It isn't the end all, be all. It's not going to completely solve the case for us in every situation," Vinson said, referring to the cameras. "We're going to look to see what other cameras are out there, surveillance cameras, systems like that."