The creation of a new police misconduct database, and a further evaluation of the use of facial recognition technologies in law enforcement, are among several foundational elements in President Biden’s executive order on policing issued today on the second anniversary of the killing of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers.

“Two years ago, the murder of George Floyd exposed for many what Black and Brown communities have long known and experienced — that we must do more to ensure that our Nation lives up to its founding promise of fair and impartial justice for all,” the White House said in announcing the order.

The White House said the order aims to “advance effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices that will build public trust and strengthen public safety,” and to “enhance public trust by promoting accountability, transparency, and the principles of equality and dignity in policing and the larger criminal justice system.”

Notably, the order only applies directly to Federal law enforcement agencies. But in addition to that focus, the White House said the order also “requires the use of federal tools such as guidance on best practices, training, and technical assistance, and grantmaking to support reforms at State, Tribal, local, and territorial law enforcement agencies that will strengthen public trust and improve public safety across the nation.”

Database Requirements

Among several major initiatives, the order instructs the Attorney General to create a National Law Enforcement Accountability Database, with mandatory participation for all Federal law enforcement agencies.

“The database will include records of officer misconduct (including convictions, terminations, de-certifications, civil judgments, resignations, and retirements while under investigation for serious misconduct, and sustained complaints or records of disciplinary actions for serious misconduct), as well as commendations and awards,” the White House said.

All Federal agencies must use the database to screen personnel, and the database will be made available to state and local law enforcement agencies, “who are encouraged to enter their records as well,” the White House said.

The public will be able to view aggregate data from the database, and the Attorney General will “assess what, whether, and in what form records from the database may be accessible to the public,” the White House said.

The order also requires Federal law enforcement agencies “to adopt and publicly post body-worn camera policies that mandate activation of cameras during activities like arrests and searches and provide for the expedited public release of footage following incidents involving serious bodily injury or deaths in custody.”

Facial Recognition Study

The executive order also tasks the National Academy of Sciences to conduct and publish a study of “facial recognition technology, other biometric technologies, and predictive algorithms that assess any privacy, civil rights, civil liberties, accuracy, or disparate impact concerns with their use,” the White House said.

The results of that study, it added, “will then be used to make any necessary changes to Federal law enforcement practices.”

Read More About
More Topics
John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.