London Creates Ethics Panel to Evaluate Use of Facial Recognition

An independent panel that advises City Hall on the ethics of policing in the capital is to examine the use by the Metropolitan Police of facial recognition technology.

Today the Mayor of London announced that a new Chair of the London Policing Ethics Panel, the ethical policy expert Dr Suzanne Shale, will review the Metropolitan Police’s use of facial-recognition technology as part of a wider look at digital policing.

Facial recognition technology has been previously used at the Notting Hill Carnival and the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph, and is one example of how the Met is using digital technology for surveillance and information-gathering. The Panel will examine its use and present general recommendations to the Mayor on how digital technology can be used to keep the public safe whilst also respecting their rights as citizens.

In a second investigation, the panel will scrutinise how the Met sets its priorities to meet rising and changing demands at a time when its funding is being cut. Since 2010–11, the Met’s general grant funding from the Government has fallen by more than £700 million, or nearly 40 per cent in real terms, on a like-for-like basis. In recent years, the Met Police have had to find around £600m of savings and the Mayor has found a further £150million of savings since he took office.

The Panel will look at priorities set out in the Mayor’s Policing and Crime Plan as well as other demands faced by the Met in exploring the ethical dilemmas that officers face as they make decisions at a strategic and operational level about what to prioritize.

Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: “The safety of Londoners is our number-one priority at City Hall and policing by consent plays a key role in that. This panel will help the Mayor and me to maintain oversight of the good work of the Met Police and ensure their work is conducted to the highest ethical standard.”

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Martin said: “The Metropolitan Police Service is committed to ensuring we deliver an effective policing service to the communities of London which maintains the highest ethical standards. We understand the importance of maintaining trust and confidence in everything we do , which is integral to the principle of policing by consent.

“The Mayors new ethics panel will be a key element in ensuring we continue to operate effectively in this way. We therefore welcome the appointment of Dr Suzanne Shale to chair the new Ethic’s Panel and we look forward to working with her and the other panel members.”

Dr Suzanne Shale, who will chair the panel, develops ethical policy and guidance, undertakes commissioned research, provides education and training, and offers one-to-one support for people seeking ethical direction in her role as an independent ethics consultant. She has an international reputation for her work helping health care organisations to respond well when patients have suffered harm in their care.

Also joining the panel are:

  • Professor Deborah Bowman — Professor of Bioethics and Clinical Ethics and Deputy Principal (Institutional Affairs) at St. George’s, University of London. She was awarded an MBE for Services to Medical Ethics in 2016.
  • Dr Priya Singh — an experienced executive director with a medical and legal services background and experience in healthcare, international member services, professional indemnity and risk.
  • Professor Leif Wenar — Professor at the School of Law, King’s College London, where he holds the Chair of Philosophy and Law. He is an editor of The Ethics of Philanthropy, and the author of Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules that Run the World.

Dr Suzanne Shale said: “Policing by consent in a diverse global city raises many ethical challenges, and there are often quite different views about what to do for the best. The Panel’s job is to help find the right course for London, one that helps us be the society we want to be. We have been impressed by the support and interest the Metropolitan Police Service has shown in the Panel’s work. We are also eager to engage Londoners as we debate difficult issues, and will be looking for innovative ways to do this as we develop our work.”

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