EPD utilizing facial recognition software in investigations

“Clearview AI” under fire across the country
EPD utilizing facial recognition software in investigations
Published: Jun. 13, 2023 at 6:34 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - As the times change, so do our law enforcement and the technology available to them to fight crime.

Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin was instrumental in securing a contract with U.S.-based facial recognition intelligence platform, Clearview AI.

“As a rookie officer in 1995, if you would’ve told me we’re doing some of this I would’ve never believed,” says Bolin.

Purchased in 2020, EPD has the ability to put anyone’s image into their system to look for a match.

“Anything in the public domain is where they’re pulling these images from,” explains Bolin, “social media, Facebook, Instagram, things like that. You’re putting it out there and it’s not private.”

A national study out of Georgia State University raised concern about the use of this facial recognition technology, citing the agencies who used it saw a 55% uptick in the arrest of black people and 22% drop in white arrests.

“If there is things that they’re doing wrong and something comes out in the future and they’re deemed that they are unethical or something, then we could revisit and decide if do want to keep using them,” says Bolin.

He says the way it is used keeps them from making false arrests.

“If we had a shoplifter at Walmart and we matched the picture up and it comes back, we’re not just going to go arrest them on that,” explains Bolin, “then we’re going to do some of the more old-fashioned detective work and go out and try to connect this person.”

So just how good is this technology? I wanted to see it for myself.

After taking my photo and plugging it into the software, it was just a few minutes before EPD detectives had access to hundreds of photos of me.

It took longer to get the picture he took of me emailed from his phone to the computer than it did to find pictures of me posted online, some of them years ago.

It’s a far cry from systems used in the past, where detectives had to comb through thousands of mugshots meticulously categorized by race and estimated age inside of a filing cabinet.

Bolin says as long as Clearview AI continues to help them, he’s gonna continue to support it.

“That’s my stance on this when people are like, ‘well don’t this bother you?’ No, because I don’t break the law,” says Bolin, “and if we can help people, the good citizens that are being victimized, why wouldn’t we want to help them?”

Looking at his budgets, Bolin says it’s costing $15,995 for a 3-year-contract with the Clearview AI, and their current contract runs through 2024.