Hoan Ton-That interviews Raymond Kelly, Former NYPD Commissioner
By Hoan Ton-That INTERVIEWS
Your public safety career has really seemed to follow the arc of modern technology development in policing. What inspired you to build the world’s first Real Time Crime Center in 2005?
When I became NYC police commissioner for the 2nd time, it was apparent that the NYPD was a classic example of an organization that didn’t know what it knew. We had fragmented data sources, many of them in paper files and in general, information was quite difficult to obtain in a timely manner. I wanted to create a ‘one stop shopping model’ for detective investigators so they could hit the ground running when they started their cases. Basic data, such as the identity of a murder victim, methodology, and criminal records were initially provided at the Real Time Crime Center and more detailed data was added as we improved the system. I believe there is no question that the RTCC has greatly facilitated the solving of crime and has saved lives.
Following that same fusion center model, how would Clearview AI’s centralized database of over 20 billion open source records and facial recognition technology further support the public safety domain?
An important element in conducting an investigation is often determining who someone’s associates and companions are. The unique capabilities of the Clearview AI database to not only identify individuals but associates is of great value in serious crime investigations and missing person cases.
As you know, gun violence is currently adversely impacting just about every major city across this country and yet, in some of these cities, there are local laws or ordinances prohibiting the use of any kind of facial recognition. As a public safety leader who has championed technological advancements as essential elements for modern day policing and has driven crime rates to all time lows throughout your tenure, let me ask you this: How would the use of data and facial recognition technology immediately help communities reduce gun violence and other serious crimes?
More and more cities are using video cameras in public places. Clearview AI’s capability, coupled with the ever increasing number of video cameras is the perfect combination for helping investigators identify and help apprehend shooters. It makes no sense for the local government to stand in the way of world class technology which will definitely save lives.
Can you talk through some of the considerations you as Police Commissioner worked through when you brought on new technologies that may have been deemed controversial by the general public?
Because NYC is a very litigious society, we always had to be sensitive to new tactics or techniques that we were introducing. When we were about to install hundreds of cameras in the lower Manhattan security initiative we contacted the lead attorneys in what was called ‘The Privacy Bar’ and negotiated an agreement wherein we would only keep videos on file for thirty days and then destroy them unless they were material to an ongoing investigation. They were satisfied. When I ordered the introduction of uniformed police to carry automatic weapons on the streets of the city, I anticipated push-back. We received virtually none. The use of drones is still controversial in many quarters as some members of the public see them as a means to spy on ordinary citizens, and it often came up as a subject at community meetings. I made the argument that the drones were used for legitimate law enforcement purposes.
How would facial recognition technology have changed policing during your time as PC and what can you say to ease concerns for those individuals who feel there is a potential for misuse when using Clearview AI?
Facial recognition technology as it exists today would have been a game changer as far as both criminal and terrorist investigations are concerned just a few years ago. The ability to identify an individual so quickly, along with his or her companions, would have obviously made investigative results much quicker and relationships more easily identified. Clearview AI products are only used by law enforcement agencies for after the crime investigations with an audit trail. These restrictions are closely enforced by Clearview AI.
There are many false assertions and misleading information that often dominate the media landscape surrounding the use of facial recognition technology by government agencies. Because of this, It’s important to distinguish between real-time crowd surveillance — which is extremely rare in the U.S. and often conflated with the widely adopted and extremely effective method of using facial recognition in an after-the-crime investigation. What policy framework can government agencies adopt to lessen the inappropriate use concerns of the public policy community, privacy advocates, the press, and the general public overall regarding the use of facial recognition technology?
The prohibition against real-time crowd surveillance must be specifically written into the rules and procedures of the law enforcement agency. Only the head of the agency should be able to approve any deviation from these restrictions and only in unique circumstances. Clearview AI technology is a ground breaking development in aiding law enforcement agencies in the conduct of criminal investigations. This amazing technology should not be held back by baseless claims by advocacy groups to restrict or protect its use. There is no question that it can be a life-saver
As a recognized leader in the public safety space, what message can you send to those individuals who feel facial recognition technology is discriminatory, an invasion of privacy, and is so dangerous that law enforcement should not be using it at all?
Facial recognition, particularly the Clearview AI system is an amazing technology that has and will save lives as it continues to grow and mature. It cannot be allowed to be thoughtlessly limited by those who refuse to see its tremendous benefit to the public as a whole. There is virtually no evidence of false identification as the result of the use of facial recognition. It is also important to note that a ‘hit’ with facial recognition never rises to the level of probable cause allowing an arrest to be made solely on that finding.
As the U.S. government broadly adopts uses for facial recognition technology, what can you tell those who hypothetically claim this places our country on a slippery slope to becoming a surveillance state like China?
China is a totalitarian state that totally controls its government and its people. The CCP can do virtually anything it wants to its citizens. The U.S. is a democracy with multiple checks and balances, both emanating from the U.S. constitution and laws and regulations passed by the U.S. Congress and other political bodies. In addition, there are strict regulations governing the implementation of Clearview AI technology required and administered by the company itself.
What's your fashion style?
I like to follow current trends.
What is your favorite restaurant?
Ferdinandos, a Sicilian restaurant, one that I have been going to for over 40 years. Located on Union Street in Brooklyn and has been there for at least 90 years.
What is your favorite cop movie?
My favorite police movie is Detective Story, an old but very well done cop story.
Clearview AI Advisory Board
Former NYPD Commissioner
The former New York City Police Commissioner, Raymond Kelly is one of the world's best-known and most highly esteemed leaders in law enforcement. Mr. Kelly was appointed Police Commissioner in 2002 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, serving through 2013, making Kelly the longest serving Police Commissioner in city history, and the first to hold the post for a second separate tenure, serving as Police Commissioner under Mayor David Dinkins from 1992 to 1994.