All 17 Celtics ask Gov. Baker to regulate facial recognition tech use for police

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Justin Quinn
·3 min read
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Jaylen Brown’s teammates backed him up in a big way in a recent Boston Globe opinion piece regarding a bill that could potentially ban facial recognition technology use by Massachusetts law enforcement the Boston Celtic forward recently tweeted his opposition to.

Brown asked several state politicians including the Governor Charlie Baker, who had not committed to signing the sweeping police reform bill passed by the Massachusetts state house and senate earlier this week, and evidently sparked this opinion piece in response. The article puts pressure on Gov. Baker to accept the part of the bill specifically in favor of restricting the facial recognition tech due to its disproportional tendency to misidentify minorities.

“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,” it begins, highlighting the primary concern with the technology.

The Celtics have committed to addressing such issues since the police killing of George Floyd last summer.

Their main focus so far has been to raise awareness on “systemic racism, and advocating for sound changes to law enforcement that improve public safety and strengthen racial justice for everyone.”

The players went on to highlight the issues with the technology from the perspective of systemic racism in policing.

They noted “Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police” than whites, and “1 in 1,000 Black men … will be killed by police.”

“[P]olice continue to be a permanent and oppressive fixture in communities of color, resulting in daily harassment and targeting of Black and brown people through unnecessary and disproportionate stops and searches, citations, and arrests.”

This will only be amplified through the facial recognition tech, state the Celtics.

“Studies confirm that face recognition surveillance technology is flawed and biased, with significantly higher error rates when used against people of color and women,” they noted.

“The ACLU of Massachusetts tested a widely available face recognition application last year, comparing official headshots of 188 New England athletes with a database of mugshots. Unsurprisingly, 27 professional athletes, including two Celtics players, were falsely matched.”

Two Celtics players — let that sink in.

As they note in the opinion piece and elsewhere, their fame and sterling reputations already has been demonstrated to not insulate them from discriminatory encounters with law enforcement.

And while they may have the money and connections to keep themselves in the clear of any such misidentification, many of their peers cannot.

This tech, in their opinion, will only exacerbate that injustice.

The team continued by providing a disturbing sample of such outcomes, closing by stating that “We can’t allow biased technology to supercharge racist policing in the Commonwealth. The Legislature should return these important regulations to the governor, and he should sign the bill.”

All 17 players affixed their name to the opinion piece.

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List

NBA: 2020-21 Boston Celtics roster

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Cleveland
+220+6.5O 215.5
Boston
-278-6.5U 215.5