Edmonton police to work on guidelines for use of technology after DNA phenotyping backlash

The service aims to create a “more robust consultation process to better understand the use of new technologies and the potential impact that can result”.

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The Edmonton Police Department and its watchdog will work on a framework for using technology to get investigative advice after the release of a ‘widespread’ image of a black man via DNA phenotyping sparked public criticism.

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EPS Community Safety and Wellbeing Branch Chief Operating Officer Enyinnah Okere explained to the Edmonton Police Commission on Thursday the decision-making behind the release of the photo based on the DNA obtained during a 2019 sexual assault investigation that had gone cold.

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It drew backlash from the public to globally characterize a black suspect, and stigmatize and criminalize racialized groups. A few days later, EPS returned to posting the image.

Okere told the commission that the image generated new clues for the case, which investigators are following up.

“However, and let me be clear, there was also unintended damage that was caused by the release of a very generalized computer-generated image and that is the crux of the matter here,” Okere said. . “The nature of this crime, the fact that this woman was racialized and marginalized, does not make the impact of the generic photo on our city’s black community OK.”

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Following the criticism, Okere said the service aims to create a “more robust consultation process to better understand the use of new technologies and the potential impact that can result.”

The service will update its ethics review process to ensure it meets a number of guidelines, including but not limited to that there is a clear demonstration of safety interest. public, that the actions are within the legal framework, that there is clear evidence of the usefulness of the technology and its limitations before proceeding, and EPS will regularly review and evaluate the use of these technologies.

  1. Africa Center executive director Sharif Haji said the organization is leading an effort to prevent Edmonton police from using DNA phenotyping as an investigative tool.

    Black community group Africa Center calls for an end to police DNA phenotyping

  2. Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee said a suspicious image generated by DNA phenotyping could end up confusing a sexual assault investigation.  Police removed the image on Thursday after posting it on Tuesday.

    Edmonton police rethink DNA technology used to identify sexual assault suspect

Commissioners approved a motion asking EPS to provide a draft proposal for a committee made up of Chief’s Community Council members, commissioners and others to “evaluate the use of current technology and future technologies” and Provide reports to the Police Board Standing IT Committee.

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Speaking to reporters after the commission meeting, Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee said the use of any new technology must be balanced with community input with the ability to solve crime. and help victims of crime.

“That’s what I love about it is coming together, building a straw dog of what it actually looks like as a best practice and a mechanism to ensure that we have that buffer at the future,” he said. “That’s what we envision. Will we be posting more generic images at this time? Nope.”

The committee also heard a presentation from Statistics Canada on the collection of race-based data.

Statistics Canada is working on guidelines for collecting race-based data for police services, with the goal of full rollout in 2024.

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Sean Tout, executive director of the EPS Information and Intelligence Management Division, said the service will first use race-based data collection criteria in cases where people self-identify. same. He said EPS aims to have a new case management system in place in the spring of 2023, with officers trained in data collection by the fall.

The data will be transmitted to Statistics Canada once it is ready to receive them, probably in early 2024.

McFee said race-based data would help determine if a particular race is overrepresented.

“Plus, it gives us a more accurate picture of what we’re actually up against in the community,” he said. “And that’s something racialized minority communities are asking for.”

The commission also proposed a motion to write a letter to the Alberta government advocating for the collection of race-based data.

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