From defund the police to fund the police. But what about technology?

There’s been a tactical reversal by some cities.

Defund the police, then re-fund the police

In November, the Portland Oregon City Council unanimously voted to increase police funding, a little over a year after the city reduced police funding in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Now this month, Oakland California has also decided to increase police funding after similarly defunding the police in the past. This vote was not unanimous, but the City Council was very much in favor of the measure.

By Taymaz Valley –, CC BY 2.0,

Not that Oakland has returned to the former status quo.

[Mayor Libby] Schaaf applauded the vote in a statement, saying that residents “spoke up for a comprehensive approach to public safety — one that includes prevention, intervention, and addressing crime’s root causes, as well as an adequately staffed police department.”


So while Oakland doesn’t believe that police are the solution to EVERY problem, it feels that police are necessary as part of a comprehensive approach. The city had 78 homicides in 2019, 109 in 2020, and 129 so far in 2021. Granted that it’s difficult to compare year-over-year statistics in the COVID age, but clearly defunding the police hasn’t been a major success.

But if crime is to be addressed by a comprehensive approach including “prevention, intervention, … addressing crime’s root causes, … (and) an adequately staffed police department…

…what about police technology?

What about police technology?

Portland and Oakland have a lot in common. Not only have they defunded and re-funded the police, but both have participated in the “facial recognition is evil” movement.

Oakland was the third U.S. city to limit the use of facial recognition, back in July 2019.

A city ordinance … prohibits the city of Oakland from “acquiring, obtaining, retaining, requesting, or accessing” facial recognition technology….


Portland joined the movement later, in September 2020. But when it did, it made Oakland and other cities look like havens of right-wing totalitarianism.

The Portland City Council has passed the toughest facial recognition ban in the US, blocking both public and private use of the technology. Other cities such as BostonSan Franciscoand Oakland have passed laws barring public institutions from using facial recognition, but Portland is the first to prohibit private use.

The Mayor of Portland, Ore. Ted Wheeler. By Naval Surface Warriors – 180421-N-UK248-023, Public Domain,

Mayor Ted Wheeler noted, “Portlanders should never be in fear of having their right of privacy be exploited by either their government or by a private institution.”

Coincidentally, I was talking to someone this afternoon about some of the marketing work that I performed in 2015 for then-MorphoTrak’s video analytics offering. The market analysis included both government customers (some with acronyms, some without) and potential private customers such as large retail chains.

In 2015, we hadn’t yet seen the movements that would result in dampening both market segments in cities like Portland. (Perpetual Lineup didn’t appear until 2016, while Gender Shades didn’t appear until 2018.)

Flash – ah ah, robber of the universe

But there’s something else that I didn’t imagine in 2015, and that’s the new rage that’s sweeping the nation.


By Dynamite Entertainment, Fair use,
Normally I add the music to the end of the post, but I stuck it in the middle this time as a camp break before this post suddently gets really serious. From

Specifically, flash mobs. And not the fun kind, but the “flash rob” kind.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who is facing a recall election in June, called this weekend’s brazen robberies “absolutely unacceptable” and was preparing tough charges against those arrested during the criminal bedlam in Union Square….

Boudin said his office was eagerly awaiting more arrests and plans to announce felony charges on Tuesday. He said 25 individuals are still at large in connection with the Union Square burglaries on Friday night….

“We know that when it comes to property crime in particular, sadly San Francisco police are spread thin,” said Boudin. “They’re not able to respond to every single 911 call, they’re only making arrests at about 3% of reported thefts.”


So there are no arrests in 97% of reported thefts in San Francisco.

To be honest, this is not a “new” rage that is sweeping the nation.

In fact, “flash robs” were occurring as early as 2012 in places like…Portland, Oregon.

If only there were a technology that could recognize flash rob participants and other thieves even when the police WEREN’T present.

A technology that is continuously tested by the U.S. government for accuracy, demographic effects (see this PDF and the individual “report cards” from the 1:1 tests), and other factors.

Does anyone know of any technology that would fill this need?

Perhaps Oakland and Portland could adopt it.

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