Military and Police

Inverted Logic: San Francisco Outlaws Facial Recognition Technology for Law Enforcement

I’ve had libertarian leanings ever since I was old enough to vote, which is fast becoming a long time ago. I value individual liberty as much as anyone. But I also value arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning those who violate other people’s individual liberty by committing fraud, theft, or violence.

This is why San Francisco’s first-in-the-nation ban on the law enforcement use of facial recognition technology (FRT) has me baffled. Again, their support for sanctuary city laws that allow violent illegal aliens to kill Americans also stumps me. Still, we are talking about San Francisco, where the city politicians invert the laws of logic as a matter of policy.

The City by the Bay, which has teamed up with the ALCLU (“L” = Liberal), is supposedly concerned about “Big Brother,” which I normally applaud. However, I have to ask: What is big brother about using FRT to locate wanted criminals in public places and remove them from the community?

Perhaps the sanctuary city/state social justice warriors actually fear law enforcement will use the technology to enforce all laws—like to find and arrest violent criminal illegal aliens. Something San Fran politicians obviously don’t support.

Essentially, FRT for law enforcement purposes works like this: Agencies would equip police officers’ patrol cars with this technology.

Many agencies use a similar technology installed in police cars and even in parking enforcement scooters that detect reported stolen cars by reading license plates.

Whenever the FRT camera detects (recognizes unique facial features) a wanted person in a public place, it would alert the officer. Officers can then detain the person to investigate and make an arrest if warranted.

Once again, whom is San Francisco trying to protect with their “anti-surveillance” measure? Once again, criminals. However, could another motivation for the cop-haters be that this tech would also help to protect cops from dangerous criminals? It would give officers that all-important heads up about a person who may do them harm.

Years ago, my city enacted a similar criminal-protecting policy, but even it didn’t go as far as San Francisco. It restricted law enforcement from photographing (gathering photographic criminal intelligence on) gang members—in public.

Although, now that they’ve likely gotten wind of San Francisco’s ban, I’m sure city council members are feverishly jotting down notes to introduce their own FRT ban.

Folks should remember that people have no expectation of privacy when in public (that’s why they call it public). Just as the other people on the street can see you in public, so can a camera. In general, people can’t then use the images they capture of you for commercial or broadcast purposes without your permission, but that’s another issue. We’re talking strictly public safety here. For the record, most cops don’t like being filmed or photographed in public either. But that’s the law, and as long as people don’t obstruct the officer, cops have to deal with it.

It’s funny that the leftists in cities such as San Francisco have no problem calling for police officers to mount video recorders in their patrol cars and even wear cameras on their bodies—even onto or into private property.

They might not say it, but it’s likely they hope to catch cops involved in wrongdoing. Fortunately, it’s usually the other way around and exonerates officers. But these same folks, ostensibly out of some altruistic concern for privacy, oppose officers using camera technology to catch dangerous criminals—even terrorists.

Like I said, logic is inverted and has nothing to do with San Francisco politician’s thinking. That is based solely on leftist politics.

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Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at

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