Chief Garcia Lays Out How DPD Will Use AI Face Tech

Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia speaks about AI at Public Safety Committee meeting | Image by City of Dallas
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia speaks about AI at Public Safety Committee meeting | Image by City of Dallas

Dallas police are preparing to roll out a program that uses artificial intelligence to help identify suspects in criminal cases, Chief Eddie Garcia said during a Public Safety Committee meeting this week.

“This is a reactive investigative tool,” Garcia said at Monday’s meeting. “We have had an opportunity, really, to study this technology. You know, in Dallas, we like to lead the way. In this particular case … I’m glad that we’ve actually taken time to see what has been out there, how we could better our policies and things of that nature when it comes to facial recognition. But I can tell you that it will be a game-changer for our hard-working detectives to have this technology.”

The Dallas Police Department is expected to begin using New York-based Clearview AI in about six months. The same technology is used in several North Texas cities, including Arlington, McKinney, and Fort Worth, as well as in metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Miami, and Las Vegas.

“When I was an investigator long ago, and I had a violent crime or a case … and I got the description … I’d go back to my office, punch that into our systems and see what photos would pop up of individuals that we had arrested that were in our databases,” Garcia said. “That was long and painstaking because then, at that point, you have to corroborate each one.”

The Clearview AI technology is a web-based platform that uses “the largest known database of 40+ billion facial images sourced from public-only web sources, including news media, mugshot websites, public social media, and other open sources” to help identify criminal suspects and exonerate those who have been wrongly accused.

“Investigative facial [recognition] technology is basically an investigative process in which we’re going to ascertain or confirm an individual’s identity,” Maj. Stephen Williams told the committee. “The solution is going to scrape the internet for all of these publicly posted photos that everybody posts on social media, the news media — everything — and use this for comparative analysis.”

Williams and Garcia said that Dallas police will only use the software in criminal cases.

“We’re going to require higher standards for training and peer review for investigative facial-rec technology usage and then ensure transparent and thorough oversight of that technology,” Williams said.

Clearview will be used when an investigation is opened.

“So how this starts out is the investigative detective investigates a criminal offense, it starts with the case number, the 911 call for service,” Williams said. “Through either CCTV or somebody’s cellphone video, there’s a photo or an image of a possible suspect. What we’re going to do from there is the detective is going to then request a facial rec analysis.”

At that point, the request is sent to a supervisor “who ensures that it meets all the criteria set forth by the department,” Williams said.

Williams stressed that Clearview AI will not be used for any other purpose, emphasizing that people shown during live-stream events exercising their First Amendment rights will not be subject to data collection.

“Facial rec technology will not be used as positive identification or as probable cause for arrest without additional corroboration. … It is merely another lead that a detective will take to follow in the criminal investigation process,” he said.

Dallas officers who use Clearview will receive 32 hours of training “with components around implicit bias and how to avoid misidentification.”

“Criminal predicate or public safety threat is required for any type of analysis to be done,” Williams said. “So, in our general orders, we are going to strictly prohibit that First Amendment activity. We are not going to be using it on that. … We require a criminal predicate. I want to make that abundantly clear.”

Garcia said police officials will return to the committee with an analysis of how the program is being used and its effectiveness six months after it goes online.

“Major Williams and I have been talking about this topic for many, many months, and we wanted to make sure we got it right,” he said. “Absolute extensive research has gone into this, with a robust policy in place.”

Council Member Gay Donnell Willis (District 13) praised Garcia and Williams for their “thoughtfulness around this.”

“It’s important to note that this is an after-the-fact tool,” she said. “And, chief, I appreciate your point. I think, sometimes, with technology and process on something like this, working out the kinks and not being an early adopter and letting others get to a better place that we can model after, it seems like it’s the right time and place for Dallas to have this.”

Council Member Cara Mendelsohn (District 12), the committee’s chair, agreed.

“I want to applaud that you have taken your time on this,” she said. “I think there are privacy concerns that people have raised, and I think you’ve addressed them. … But I think the No.1 thing that I’ve gotten out of all of the discussion we’ve had on this is how essential it is to understand that policing is changing and that we have to leverage technology that’s available to us to help take people off the street.”

Facial recognition technology is also used by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

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