Ashley Johnson argues that facial recognition technology can be benignly used to reduce crime, and what better place than to do it than Baltimore; one of the nations most violent cities (“Banning facial recognition technology: Baltimore’s bad idea,” June 2)?
Of course, that worn argument has already been used many times over to justify violating residents rights. It was the original justification for stop and frisk, which overwhelmingly targeted Black men, the vast majority of whom where innocent. Stop and frisk ended without a decrease in crime and a generation of people, especially Black men, who now rightfully distrusted the police who viewed them as inherently criminal. More recently, it was used for Baltimore’s recently-ended spy plane experiment, which ended without a decrease in crime, but did succeed in surveilling hundreds of thousands of innocent people for months.
The promise is always the same: Give up a little liberty and get security in return. The result is always the same as well — a loss of freedoms while crime remains. Crime in Baltimore will go down when the city rebuilds trust in our government, improves economic opportunities for residents and does a better job of educating the city’s children.
Arguing that better algorithms are less discriminatory is not a compelling argument when it’s the surveillance itself and who will have access to it that is the problem. Ms. Johnson doesn’t specify who should be entrusted with the information gained from this surveillance.
Should this information be entrusted to the Baltimore Police Department? The BPD is under a consent decree because for years its officers repeatedly violated Baltimorean’s constitutional rights and engaged in discriminatory policing against the city’s Black residents.
Perhaps Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who is federal investigation herself, is the one to entrust this information to? Otherwise, maybe it should be given to the City Council, whose president, Nick Mosby, is also under investigation?
Should it be the mayor’s purview? Even if Brandon Scott isn’t corrupt, two of his four most recent predecessors were charged with crimes and one, Catherine Pugh, is currently serving a federal sentence.
To which of these institutions should we trust with this technology? I certainly would not trust a private company with the information.
The City Council is absolutely correct with its proposed bill, and if Baltimore’s proposed ban on facial recognition technology goes further than others, then others should follow our example, not the other way around.
Chris Nutt, Baltimore
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