The Equity and Human Relations Commission is no longer calling for the creation of a community oversight commission to monitor future developments in policing, saying such a body would do more harm than good, the commission voted Wednesday. Such a recommendation had been part of a package of recommendations on facial recognition technology and other surveillance technologies from the commission.
Although initially approved in June, those recommendations have yet to be formally passed on to the mayor and City Council, according to city officials.
The commission had originally included the oversight commission’s recommendation as a sort of compromise measure to provide the community with some form of protection if the City Council refused to ban facial recognition technology and automatic license plate readers, the police said. President Alyssa Gutierrez during Wednesday’s meeting.
Mohammed Tajsar, lead attorney for the ACLU’s Southern California office, told the commission Wednesday that while oversight commissions, popularly known as “Community Control Over Policing” or CCOPS, already exist in 22 cities across the country, including New York, San Francisco, Detroit, Nashville and San Diego, his research shows have not led to sufficient reform on the use of facial recognition technology and other surveillance methods, as other agencies municipal authorities, such as town councils, still have the last word.
The commission’s letter on surveillance technology still calls on the city to ban facial recognition technology, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s LACRIS database, as well as automatic license plate readers. It also calls for redirecting the $7.3 million the city spends on such technology to “youth development programs, job training programs that lead to stable, family-supporting jobs, mental health services, and access to stable and affordable housing.”
Tajsar said the ACLU strongly supported those recommendations.
“There is extensive research showing that surveillance technology is inherently biased, anti-Black, and targeted at immigrant communities,” the Equity Commission letter states. While other communities had tried to reform the technology, the commissioners wrote, they added that “racist technology cannot be reformed, it must be banned entirely.”
LBPD Chief Wally Hebeish said last year that the department only uses the software to generate leads in criminal investigations and not “for mass community surveillance.”
Hebeish said department policy only allows investigators to use LACRIS when trying to identify specific people while investigating a crime. The LACRIS documents state that the database only “assists in the identification process” of suspects.
While the technology has been used to prevent sex trafficking and locate missing persons, civil rights activists have noted that “algorithmic bias” has led to false identifications and wrongful arrests of people of color, the Commission on Technology and Innovation noted. of Long Beach at a July 2021 meeting.
Seventeen people spoke Wednesday in support of the Equity Commission’s call to ban policing technologies during its Wednesday meeting. But many of them also spoke out against the commission’s original final recommendation, calling for the establishment of a “Community Oversight Commission on Surveillance Technologies” that would develop and oversee a “surveillance investigation framework ordinance” governing the use and the purchase of new technologies.
“Transparency is not enough,” Jamilet Ochoa of the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition told the Equity Commission on Wednesday, adding that oversight simply “legitimizes” the use of future surveillance technology. .
The commission has heard such criticism before. At the Equity and Human Relations Commission meeting on August 3, Julie Mao, deputy director of Just Futures Law, said such commissions were “insufficient,” “too bureaucratic” and, in the case of Long Beach, “a little redundant,” considering that two of the city’s commissions have already spent the better part of two years investigating policing technology.
It is unknown when the amended letter of recommendation will arrive to the Mayor and City Council.
After the Technology and Innovation Commission approved its long-awaited white paper calling for a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology by the LBPD in July, both panels agreed to pool their respective documents and transmit them to the city manager as a single packet, along with a cover sheet containing what city officials called “analyses” from city staff to the city manager, who would then deliver them to Mayor Robert Garcia and the City Council.
But city officials say the broadcast to the City Council and mayor has yet to take place. President Gutiérrez said Wednesday that the package of recommendations has not yet reached the mayor or the Municipal Council.
Lea Eriksen, the city’s director of technology and innovation, told the Technology Commission on Aug. 24 that while a draft of the documents was transmitted to the city manager’s office, city staff were still ” reviewing” both recommendation documents, which included the Long Beach Police Department, but expected it to be released “at any time.”
In an email to the Post, Eriksen said that since the city manager’s office has “several layers of review,” he doesn’t know when it will be passed on to City Council.
Over the summer, commissioners from the Technology and Innovation Commission and the Equity and Human Relations Commission discussed whether they should take their policing recommendations directly to city council members, but both commissions ultimately agreed to wait until the broadcast took place. formal.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with additional information from Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Lea Eriksen.
UPDATE: Equity Commission Recommends Ban on Some Policing Technologies