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Pittsburgh police used facial recognition technology during Black Lives Matter protests

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh police used facial recognition technology during last summer’s Black Lives Matter Protests last summer, a spokesperson for the department said.

The technology, called Clearview AI, was used for investigative purposes. Officers who used this directly violated policy because it was banned by the city. A Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety spokesperson confirmed to Channel 11 that Clearview AI was offered as a free trial.

The officers who used it did not get permission from command staff. It didn’t lead to any arrests or prosecutions after the protests.

Unless city council approves it, Pittsburgh police are not allowed to use it. Officers can use facial recognition but only through a website called JNET.

Some city leaders are wondering why they would directly violate the standards in place.

“We passed what I thought was a good law. I think it’s great not to use this type of technology, but how does it still end up in use?,” City Councilman Corey O’Connor remarked.

“I’m against that and it shouldn’t happen, period,” said mayoral candidate Ed Gainey.

Public Safety tells Channel 11 it’s not clear if the officers who used this were disciplined.

“The police should be aware that the public is on to them and this has to stop. It’s not permissible to surveil people just because they’re gathered together,” said Beth Pittinger with the Citizens Police Review Board.

She said there will be a report released next month on police handled protests last summer.