June 18, 2024


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Ban on facial-recognition technology in West Lafayette police tabled again


The West Lafayette city council members meet for their March 7, 2022 meeting.

The West Lafayette city council members meet for their March 7, 2022 meeting.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — An ordinance banning the government use of facial-recognition technology was tabled this week to the April West Lafayette City Council meeting.

Similar attempts to ban this use of facial-recognition technology have been addressed by the board in the past. Most recently, a previous ordinance regarding this ban was passed by the board with a 5-4 vote at the November 2021 meeting. However, this vote was immediately vetoed by West Lafayette mayor John Dennis.

The previous ordinance outlined areas of concern:

  • Facial-recognition surveillance shall mean an automated or semi-automated process that assists in identifying or verifying an individual, based on the physical characteristics of an individual’s face.

  • Facial-recognition surveillance system shall mean any computer software or application that performs facial-recognition surveillance.

“I do suspect that this is just the beginning of a great deal of conversation when it comes to this type of technology,” Dennis said in November. “There is so much information that was discussed on the council that really does make us aware that they need to have more meetings and an open mind about it.”

The current ordinance was tabled Monday night to the April meeting due in part to the absence of two city council board members.

“I have heard from the police chief of West Lafayette and from some of my fellow city councilors that they still have concerns about this ordinance,” David Sanders, councilman and sponsor for the ordinance, said Monday night. “And we’re also missing two of the councilors tonight. So, in order to be able to address the various concerns and see whether we can find an ordinance that is acceptable to everyone, I would move that this ordinance… be tabled until the April meeting of the city council.”

Councilman David Sanders speaks during the March 7, 2022 West Lafayette city council meeting.

Councilman David Sanders speaks during the March 7, 2022 West Lafayette city council meeting.

Sanders introduced this ordinance by stating that he has been working with legal counsel since the summer of 2021 to create an acceptable regulatory ordinance regarding facial-recognition technology.

“I thought I had addressed all the issues,” Sanders told the Journal & Courier. “The focus of all of the comments that previous meetings (held) was that… we should be able to use this tool for crimes of violence. That’s in the new ordinance. Now, from what the police chief has sent to us – and what I’ve heard from city councilors – they want something more. I want to figure out what that something more is.”

West Lafayette Police Chief Troy Harris spoke with the Journal & Courier regarding such additional concerns with this ordinance.

“I think that… if we want to have an ordinance, if we want to try to find some middle ground,” Harris said. “That middle ground should be that the police department is able to use this (technology) for… any legitimate law enforcement purpose.

“…I think that (the ordinance) needs to be expanded. I think that this ordinance is too restrictive… I agree that there should be some restrictions on facial-recognition…I would never advocate for surveilling our community… The only thing I am asking is that we have the ability to investigate a crime when we have victims in our community by using facial-recognition and not have any restrictive measures placed upon us.”

The next West Lafayette City Council meeting will be on April 4 in Margerum City Hall.

Margaret Christopherson is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MargaretJC2.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Ban on facial-recognition technology tabled again


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