New Orleans Police Claim Not To Use Facial Recognition Tech. Emails Reveal That’s Not Totally True.

The city outsources facial recognition work to other Louisiana law enforcement departments

Michael Hayes
OneZero
Published in
6 min readAug 26, 2019

--

Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images

TThe City of New Orleans has been adamant that it “does not use facial recognition software.” Though there is no city ordinance outright banning the technology, city officials often repeat that claim, and have even included a line in the privacy policy of its Real-Time Crime Center surveillance hub stating “Facial recognition is not utilized by the System.”

But that is an incomplete picture of how facial recognition technology is being used in New Orleans. Now, court evidence reveals that Louisiana state police officers can and have utilized a searchable facial recognition database to assist New Orleans police in their investigations. In at least one NOPD investigation, facial recognition was used to identify and indict a suspect.

In December 2018, a New Orleans police detective investigating a mugging in the city’s French Quarter distributed a wanted poster to the department’s law enforcement partners around the state — standard practice for New Orleans police investigators.

In at least one NOPD investigation, facial recognition was used to identify and indict a suspect.

According to court records, a state police technician with the Louisiana State Fusion Center, which runs a facial recognition program, picked up the image from the poster and — without NOPD knowledge — ran it through the software. The Fusion Center technician in charge of the case later sent along one of the matches generated by the program to her supervisor who, according to emails obtained by OneZero, passed it on to a NOPD lieutenant overseeing the case, writing that the technician “was able to locate a possible match” using the facial recognition program. According to the emails, the NOPD lieutenant then forwarded the match to the NOPD detective, writing: “Looks like they identified your guy.”

Two months after the original wanted poster was issued, the NOPD arrested the person whose image came up as a match in the state’s facial recognition system.

--

--