NYPD used facial recognition software during investigation targeting Black Lives Matter activist


The New York Police Department (NYPD) said it used facial recognition software during its investigation targeting Black Lives Matter organizer Derrick Ingram, who saw his apartment surrounded by officers, police dogs and a helicopter earlier this month as part of the operation.

A spokeswoman for the agency told The Hill on Wednesday that “facial recognition software was utilized in accordance with department policy” 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 department, which has been using the technology since 2011, added.

“This technology helps bring justice to victims of crimes. A facial recognition match is a lead. No one has ever been arrested solely on the basis of a computer match, no matter how compelling.” 

Gothamist was the first outlet to report the news and also obtained a screen grab from footage of the operation captured earlier this month that showed an officer holding a paper reading at the top “Facial Identification Section Informational Lead Report,” along with a photo it identified of Ingram. 

The NYPD drew national headlines earlier this month after it surrounded Ingram’s apartment in Manhattan on Aug. 7 with a number of officers in riot gear, vehicles, dogs and a helicopter.

Ingram, the founder of Warriors in the Garden, a group advocating for police reform that has been leading rallies in the city in recent months, had been hosting a livestream on Instagram during part of the operation, according to The New York Times.

“What did I do? What did I do? I was born Black. That’s what I did,” Ingram said in the livestream.

A spokeswoman for the police department claimed on Wednesday that the agency had been “attempting to make an apprehension for an assault on a police officer” that day.

The department said it was “seeking him for an open complaint report” for an alleged assault that occurred during a demonstration in the Midtown North Precinct in mid-June. The representative said during the alleged incident that the officer tried to stop Ingram “from entering a frozen zone and a struggle ensued.”

“The individual placed a handheld megaphone directly against the officer’s ear, activated the megaphone and yelled, causing pain and protracted impairment of hearing. EMS transported the officer to an area hospital for treatment,” the officer said.

According to the Times, Ingram denied assaulting anyone during his livestream earlier this month.

The department said Ingram also turned himself into police custody the day after law enforcement surrounded his home. During the operation the day before, Ingram hadn’t allowed the police to enter his home since they didn’t have a warrant, according to the Times. 

Ingram had initially faced second-degree assault charges at the time of his arrest earlier this month. However, the charge was later downgraded to misdemeanor assault. 

Ingram said in a statement earlier this month that the police department’s actions were “an attempt to silence our movement.”

“This militarized police response endangers the safety of residents in Hell’s Kitchen and across NYC,” he continued, adding: “Officers used threats and intimidation tactics on a young man with no criminal history.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) was pressed earlier this week about the department’s use of facial recognition technology in the investigation targeting Ingram and whether he thinks it’s ever appropriate for that kind of technology to be used on protesters.

In response, de Blasio stressed the need for officials to be “very sparing in our use of facial recognition technology” and “very limited in our use of anything involving facial recognition.”

“In a very complicated world, in a world where unfortunately we have dealt with violent acts of terror here in New York City, there is a place for facial recognition, but with really clear checks and balances and very limited use,” he said.

De Blasio added that the standards regarding use of the technology “need to be reassessed and it’s something that I will do with my team and with the NYPD.”

The mayor also said he was “unhappy” with how the arrest was carried out earlier this month and added it “will not happen like that in the future.”

The operation, he said, was “not approved by higher level leadership” and that “anything like that should be approved by higher level leadership and handled the right way.”

The report comes weeks after the American Civil Liberties Union said in a complaint that use of the technology resulted in the wrongful arrest of a Black man in Detroit.

Tags Bill de Blasio Derrick Ingram Facial recognition software NYPD

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