Chief John Mina of the Orlando Police Department is exploring new technology to keep Central Floridians safe. Although Amazon’s facial recognition program sparked an uproar in Orlando when it became public that it was being used in Central Florida back in May of this year, it could be the answer to building a safer Orlando.
However, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the ACLU has concerns based on a test they conducted. The CBC sent a letter to Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, to explain the results of their test. After testing the software, the ACLU found the facial recognition program falsely identified 28 members of Congress. Recently, Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) also performed a study that revealed some facial recognition systems correctly identified a higher proportion of white men than darker-skinned individuals, especially women. The primary concern of the ACLU and the CBC is for Black people, undocumented immigrants and activists. According to the ACLU’s test of the congressional members, the software falsely identified nearly 40 percent of people of color even though they make up only 20 percent of Congress.
On the other hand, in the case of Markeith Loyd, the alleged killer of Sade Dixon, her unborn child and Lt. Debra Clayton of the Orlando Police Department, this software may have been the key to saving Clayton’s life by capturing Loyd before he committed another alleged crime, further protecting the surrounding community.
Mina assures Central Floridians that Amazon’s facial recognition system is a test and only a test and is not being used in any public spaces at this time. “We’re just in a testing phase with Amazon and we’ve only used it on police officers,” Mina said. “I did see the study and I was very upset to hear those results. We would never move forward if studies like that are shown to be true.” This software can be helpful in finding the countless number of missing children as well. Many other companies have also contacted the Orlando Police Department saying they have great software and Mina says, many other cities will have to use this as the technology grows. Mina adds, “We would never use it to profile certain people. We don’t have the history of doing that. We are just in the testing phase and we would never go live with this if we were seeing Americans being profiled or targeted.”
Another issue at the top of Mina’s list is the war on opioids in Central Florida. About two years ago, Orlando started to see a huge increase in the number of overdoses. Today, all of the first responders in Orlando are equipped with Narcan or Naloxone, a drug used to counteract an overdose of opioids. Mina and his force have shifted their focus from going after the user to going after the dealer while increasing the penalties for trafficking fentanyl. Mina said, “Additionally, we are also looking to charge those people (dealers) in the deaths of people who have died of overdoses. We are almost running that as a homicide investigation.” Mina is also part of the mayor’s task force and says it will take more than just law enforcement to combat this problem and getting the community to focus on outreach and prevention is a step in the right direction.
Mina put in his resignation after almost 30 years at the Orlando Police Department and is currently running for Sheriff of Orange county.