The Los Angeles Police Department has been collecting evidence throughout the violence in recent days amid protests over the death of George Floyd — mostly in the form of video footage that could be used to identify individuals and bring charges against them in the future, it was reported Tuesday.
And the FBI on Monday put out a call for pictures and videos that could help identify people “actively instigating violence” at protests across the country decrying Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Although such strategies have been used in the past, they have generated concerns about privacy rights of peaceful protesters.
Mikhail Ramnaney, head of the union that represents Los Angeles County public defenders, said funneling footage to local law enforcement agencies or the FBI in the hope of catching looters could allow law enforcement to use facial recognition technology to identify peaceful protesters in the area, the Times reported.
“If government agencies are stockpiling large repositories of film, in light of what’s going on with widely available facial recognition technology, I wouldn’t be surprised if those technologies were used on those crowd-sourced contributions,” Ramnaney said.
Thousands of officers in areas with severe looting and vandalism were wearing body cameras and recording hours of footage, said Josh Rubenstein, an LAPD spokesman.
Police also have been provided footage from residents and business owners, not to mention the slew of images they can access on social media and traditional media.
“Where it’s being brought to our attention, or where we are able to capture any evidence of people committing crimes, that is being captured for further investigation,” Rubenstein said.
Steve Soboroff, a member of the civilian police commission that oversees the LAPD, said he understands people’s frustration over a lack of police presence as some crimes were occurring over the weekend. But police were in a difficult position and had to pick their priorities, and LAPD Chief Michel Moore rightly prioritized lives and keeping people safe over confronting every looter, Soboroff said.
And returning to investigate and prosecute crimes at a later date — when the LAPD isn’t stretched thin and officers aren’t in dangerous situations — makes sense, Soboroff said.
“Are we going to get into a shootout in a shoe store, or are we going to take video and figure all of this out later?” Soboroff said.