Governor Baker opposed the limited restrictions on facial recognition software in the legislature’s police reform bill (S.2963). The legislature buckled and passed a bill that rolled back the limited restrictions the previous version had:
- It allows police to use court orders to request that the RMV, State Police, or FBI perform a facial recognition search. Court orders have a lower burden of proof than a search warrant;
- Police won’t need to request a court order for a facial recognition search if they deem the request to be an emergency.
The bill requires police to report all facial recognition search requests to the state office of public safety, where residents may not be able to submit a FOIA request. It does require that the state office of public safety publish a yearly report with data on how many searches were performed, on behalf of which agencies, and in which types of investigations.
The following features of the bill are in the final version based on reading the text, what I have heard from other activists and reporting:
- bans chokeholds and restricts chemical weapons;
- allows prosecutors to charge police who have sex with or indecently assault a person in custody;
- forbids schools from disclosing certain student record information to law enforcement without student/parent consent or a court order;
- ends the requirement that police be stationed in schools;
- restricts no-knock warrants.
While this bill will help limit police’s ability to harm citizens and starts the process of unraveling the school to prison pipeline, it doesn’t impose a facial recognition moratorium or do nearly enough to end racist policing.
Ultimately, the only way we can ensure our rights are protected is to replace Democrats and Republicans with Pirates in the House and Senate. We need you for 2022.