Celtics players call for Gov. Baker to end facial recognition surveillance

"Baker’s rejection of this section of the police reform bill is deeply troubling because this technology supercharges racial profiling by police."

Celtics players wrote an op-ed in The Boston Globe asking Governor Charlie Baker pass police reform bill with regulations on face recognition technology. Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP

Celtics players are asking Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to reconsider his stance on the use of facial recognition technology in the police force.

In an op-ed for The Boston Globe on Wednesday, Celtics players made the argument to Governor Baker that facial recognition technology should not be used by the police.

“Baker’s rejection of this section of the police reform bill is deeply troubling because this technology supercharges racial profiling by police and has resulted in the wrongful arrests of innocent people,” the subheadline of the article read.

Last Thursday, Governor Baker sent back a police accountability bill to lawmakers and threatened not to sign the bill if they didn’t make the changes he’s looking for. One of Baker’s amendments to the bill was removing the proposed regulation of the use of facial recognition technology by the government.


In making their argument, Celtics players cited a test done by the ACLU of Massachusetts last year in which the union compared the official headshots of 188 New England athletes with a database of mugshots. Twenty-seven of the athletes were falsely matched in the test, including Tacko Fall and former Celtic Gordon Hayward.

The players also cited the case of Robert Williams, a Detroit man who was arrested for 30 hours because of the police’s use of facial recognition technology that incorrectly matched Williams with a man who committed a crime a year earlier.

“Massachusetts lawmakers’ proposed regulations make sense for racial justice and public safety,” the players wrote. “By prohibiting government agencies from using face recognition technology to surveil people, it will prevent racially-biased, discriminatory surveillance technology from being used to track us everywhere we go. In those rare situations where the technology might give police officers a useful lead in the investigation of serious crimes, the bill would allow them to get a warrant to compare images of suspects to images already held by the government.”

In asking for the removal of facial recognition technology, the Celtics players endorsed section 26 of the bill, which allows police to search images via the Registry of Motor Vehicles in serious criminal investigations and life-threatening emergencies to help identify those suspected of a crime.


“Like policing itself, surveillance technologies are most often deployed in communities of color, severely diminishing people’s anonymity and privacy and putting them at potential risk,” the players wrote.

The op-ed concluded by asking the Legislature to return the proposed regulations to Baker, and for Baker to sign the bill.

Every player on the Celtics’ roster is credited at the end of the article.

You can read the entire op-ed here.

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