Orlando police chief says facial ID tool is only a test

Orlando’s police chief held a news conference on Thursday to answer questions about how his department is testing facial recognition software.

“My hope is that one day it will work, and one day it will prevent some tragedies,” Chief John Mina said.

The program, called “Rekognition,” comes from Amazon. It’s availability to public safety agencies has come under fire by civil rights groups like the ACLU.

“We would never use this technology to track random citizens, immigrants, political activists or certainly people of color,” Mina explained.

Police say during the pilot period, they’re using facial imaging from their officers who have volunteered. An OPD spokesperson says the program is running on a handful of cameras in and around police headquarters and downtown.

“All were trying to do is see if the image can be picked up in a live stream video,” Mina said.

The chief says his department is still deciding on whether they think the system really works. He says if it does, it could help put bad guys away. Mina used the example of suspected cop killer Markeith Loyd. Loyd is accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon in December of 2016 and Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton about a month later when she confronted him at a Walmart.

“You remember last year the manhunt for Markeith Loyd? After he had shot and killed Sade Dixon, he roamed about the city freely. Imagine if the technology was in place and was able to alert us as he went into the Walmart, possibly preventing Debra’s death or an incident like that,” Mina said.

Police say they started exploring “Rekognition” in December. They say the test period is supposed to take about six months but it may go longer.