Birmingham public safety committee voting on controversial police software

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — On Tuesday, the Birmingham public safety committee will be voting on a new police software.

Groups that fight racial injustice, like Black Lives Matters and People’s Budget Birmingham, are criticizing the new software proposal and said they will be protesting at the meeting.

Chairman Hunter Williams said the new software from Motorola will help the command center know in real time the situations and calls police are responding to. From there, the command center can decide the appropriate amount of officers to go to the scene.

“It takes our ShotSpotter technology we currently have in city of Birmingham, our camera systems we already have in city of Birmingham, and then our body cameras which our new to our officers. and was most recent upgrade just ratified by this budget so all of those can integrate in one screen and so if there is an incident, we can tell what is going on by using all that data in one interface,” Williams said.

Groups like the Birmingham chapter of Black Lives Matter say they’re concerned this new software would target minority communities.

“We know they’ve invested in street camera the past few years, they placed street camera in predominantly poor communities, as a way to surveil our communities. They also invested in license plate readers recently. They’ve invested in more tasers and police equipment and all of that so these tools are literally being used to target our marginalized communities,” said Eric Hall, co-founder of the BLM Birmingham chapter.

Protesters say they are specifically concerned about the software having facial recognition technology.

“This type of technology is more attune to read license plates, things like that and have been a huge success to solving a lot of drive by shootings incidents, homicides. That is our goal. The city of Birmingham has no intention and really quite frankly this technology doesn’t give the ability to monitor people on some sort of personal and private level,” Williams said.

On the public safety committee agenda is a vote on the Motorola Command Central and BriefCam software. Groups like People’s Budget Birmingham claim BriefCam specifically has facial recognition, which they are strongly against.

Hall said the money being used for this technology should go to other resources.

“We need more investment in communal care models and these tools are simply used or will be used to harm or punish and be used in ways that will be more harmful than helpful,” Hall said.

The Birmingham public safety committee will vote on this new software at 3:30 p.m. in the Birmingham City Council chambers.


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