In this Talk of the Bay episode, we hear from Congressman Jimmy Panetta about a new policing bill he co-sponsored that would reign in some practices and equipment available to police. In the second half, we hear from Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director of the Media Alliance about Santa Cruz’ rejection of facial recognition software for police and the issues with high-tech policing in general. Santa Cruz is poised to become the first city to vote against using the predictive policing AI program, PredPol, which it has used in the past and now is removing from its force. The vote by Santa Cruz’ city council takes place June 23rd, 2020.
Tracy Rosenberg has worked as Media Alliance’s Executive Director since 2007. She has organized and advocated for a free, accountable and accessible comunications system. She blogs on media policy and is published frequently around the country. She currently sits on the board of the Alliance for Community Media Western Region, serves on the anchor committee of the Media Action Grassroots Network and co-coordinates Oakland Privacy.
With technology leaping forward at a pace we can barely keep up with, and the country grappling with a crisis in policing and a long history of racial injustice, the time is right for progressive cities to take decisive action. That is why cities throughout Northern California and the country are thinking about where the balance lies between public safety, personal freedom and human rights. At this moment, communities are crying out for municipal action that is not just window-dressing but makes transformative changes. We have seen all over the country in the past weeks that First Amendment-protected activities including peaceful protests, legal observation and journalism are sometimes subject to aggressive and unconstitutional policing. As Mayor Cummings has stated on numerous occasions, certain kinds of spy tech have been exposed as racially biased and to enhance existing inequities in the criminal justice system. Predictive policing reinforces existing patterns of over-policing and facial recognition software has disastrously high error rates for people with dark skin, youth and women. Flawed tools cannot keep us safe and put some of us in direct danger. With a federal government that is ripping the Bill of Rights to shreds, it has never been more important to be fully aware of the possible unintended uses of collected data . Santa Cruz has an opportunity to take the lead in rejecting the use of dangerous and flawed surveillance tech by joining San Francisco, Oakland, Cambridge, Brookline, Berkeley, Somerville and Northampton in banning municipal facial recognition and becoming the first city in the U.S. to ban predictive policing tech.