Pittsburgh police officers accessed the facial recognition technology Clearview AI over the course of a year, including during Black Lives Matter protests last summer. The use of the technology violated police policy and, in some later cases, broke city law.
The Pittsburgh police bureau is investigating contact between police staff and Clearview AI following inquiries by PublicSource about the bureau’s involvement with the facial recognition company.
According to a recent story from Buzzfeed News, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police made between 101 and 500 searches on Clearview between 2018 and February 2020. Using data provided by a confidential source, along with public records and interviews, Buzzfeed News compiled a list of over 1,800 publicly funded agencies across the country that used Clearview, including 63 in Pennsylvania. Cara Cruz, a spokesperson for the Pittsburgh police, confirmed to PublicSource that members of the bureau received emails from Clearview and said the bureau is still investigating the extent of correspondence between Clearview and police staff. Any correspondence between Clearview and bureau staff occurred without the approval or knowledge of police command staff, Cruz wrote in an email to PublicSource, adding that the bureau has not and does not approve of the use of private facial recognition technologies. The bureau has a policy prohibiting its use.
Six months ago, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration sought to answer summer protests with a task force report on police reform. Also in October, the city started the process of firing Officer Paul Abel.
Pittsburgh’s mayor, who last year faced heat for his handling of clashes between police and protesters, is now taking fire from election challengers, including a retired officer and a politician once tasked with improving the bureau’s diversity.
Compared to the other five largest PA counties, ACJ was far less transparent in providing its mental health policies. PublicSource appealed ACJ’s decision to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records, but the appeal was denied.
The country is on edge after a mob incited by the president overtook the U.S. Capitol last week, resulting in the death of five people and a sense that the security of American democracy is at risk.
The Washington Post reported that right-wing groups are planning additional armed marches leading up to the Jan. 20 inauguration, according to Alethea Group, which analyzes and combats disinformation online. The report by Alethea Group’ showed plans for activity in all 50 state capitals as well as some other cities, including Pittsburgh. In a Jan. 12 statement, the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office said the agency is aware of reports of possible “protests in our area,” and that FBI agents interviewed a “Pittsburgh-based individual” cited in the report.
A single Pittsburgh police officer has been the subject of 119 allegations of misconduct that have reached the city’s Office of Municipal Investigations since 2010. They stemmed from 56 separate incidents. And nearly one in three involved force or weapons.
Every year, Pittsburgh's Bureau of Police issues a report showing how many officers have been reprimanded, counseled, suspended and terminated, and for what types of violations. And the city's Office of Municipal Investigations [OMI] separately characterizes and tallies the accusations it probed in the prior year.
Someone you love is having a breakdown. They could hurt themselves. Who do you call? If 911 leaps to mind, you’ll likely get a visit in a few minutes — from police, whose training includes behavioral health but is focused more on addressing criminality. If you can remember 1-888-796-8226 (or 1-888-7-YOU-CAN), you’ll get a mental health professional from resolve Crisis Services, a 13-year-old unit of UPMC hired by Allegheny County to handle behavioral incidents.
Diona Brown was at Pittsburgh Municipal Court last month for another case when she learned she had two outstanding court fines for when she was at school, two decades ago. Both were for truancy, dating back to 1999 and 2000. She was 16 years old.
It was so long ago that Brown couldn’t even remember why she’d missed school. “Who knew once you grow up you have to take care of that stuff?” she said.
The outstanding amount totaled $404.50. For Brown, who’s been staying at home caring for her three children while they attend school virtually, the amount is insurmountable.