Orlando police chief hopes facial recognition software will one day prevent tragedies

OPD part of pilot program for Amazon Rekognition

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando Police Chief John Mina spoke to the media Thursday to clarify some information about the department's participation in a pilot program for Amazon Rekognition, which aims to provide real-time facial recognition.

Department officials told News 6 on Tuesday that the technology is not being used for investigative purposes. Since it is so early in the process, there's no data at this point to prove that the software works as designed. 

“My hope is that one day it will work and one day it will prevent some tragedies across the nation,” Mina said.

Seven Orlando police officers volunteered to have their facial imaging submitted to see if their faces can be tracked and picked up on one of the eight city-owned cameras -- three city-owned IRIS cameras and five city-owned facility security cameras -- that have the software installed.

OPD has been testing the technology since December. Originally the pilot program was designed to last six months, but it could last longer because there have been some kinks in the streaming portion of the technology.

Mina mentioned two recent high-profile cases where the facial recognition technology could have proven useful if it were functioning properly and being used for investigative purposes.

He said that in the case of Michael Hunt, a man accused of stalking Lana Del Rey, cameras could have potentially recognized Hunt before he got anywhere near the Amway Center where the singer performed.

Mina said the technology also could have assisted in the manhunt for accused double murderer Markeith Loyd. Had the software been available on the camera outside the John Young Parkway Walmart, officers could have been alerted to Loyd's presence at the store before authorities say he fatally shot Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton.

"Imagine if the technology was in place and was able to alert us as he went into the Walmart, possibly preventing Debra's death or an incident like that," Mina said.

He said the technology is a long way from being used on body cameras or in an investigative capacity. If one day it is developed to that point, he said it would not be used in a way that invades the privacy of everyday citizens.

"We would never use this technology to track random citizens, immigrants, political activists and certainly not people of color," Mina said.

He is hopeful that the software could one day save lives and "increase public safety."

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