By Danielle Merrill
Photo: Marian Mwenja speaking in front of City Council, taken from livestream
Concerns about facial recognition and increased surveillance in a new policing software contract with Motorola should be held off, according to some citizens at a city council meeting Tuesday—even though Mayor Randall Woodfin has said facial recognition is not part of the contract.
Each individual on the speaker’s list was given three minutes to speak to the committee.
Teri Wright, a member of the local community, said that the software had a chance of error in identifying individuals.
“I do want to make sure that we are careful because of systemic racism,” Wright said.
The Motorola Command Central Aware & BriefCam Software was removed from the agenda during a public safety committee meeting on Oct. 6 in order to be edited by law enforcement, according to ABC 33/40 News.
Rob Burton, a neighborhood officer for Glen Iris, said that the $1.35 million expenditure is not in line with the people’s priorities when it comes to investment and public safety.
“The people are saying that, for them, what they would like to see invested in for public safety is not related to surveillance,” Burton said. “They would like alternative criminal justice models.”
Birmingham resident Marian Mwenja said that the budget is expensive, ineffective and puts many at risk, “locking in murder” for hundreds of people across the city.
“35% of the time, it misidentifies people like me, Black women,” Mwenja said. “It puts me at more risk of being targeted by the police, of being arrested, of being killed.”
Mwenja stood the rest of her three minutes, without speaking, in front of the committee.
Local Keith Williams said the people of Birmingham don’t know anything about the item that is going before the council and that there might be a transparency issue regarding the new police software.
“I wanna know who, what, when, how and why before I decide to do anything, to vote on anything, or to make a decision on anything,” Williams said. “All we are asking for is complete and total transparency of what is going on in the city of Birmingham.”
The city council meets every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on the third floor of the Birmingham City Hall.
Edited by Hannah Warren, Ryan Michaels & John H. Glenn