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The head of the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau apparently ordered the use of controversial facial recognition software to investigate cops who were drinking before a slain colleague’s funeral, a newly released email shows.
The directive seems to have led to what police sources said was the suspension of an NYPD sergeant and a detective caught drinking on-duty while riding on the Long Island Railroad to the Feb. 20, 2019, memorial service for Detective Brian Simonsen.
One day after the hero cop’s funeral, Deputy Commissioner of Internal Affairs Joseph Reznick ordered Deputy Inspector Michael King of the Joint Terrorism Task Force to use the “Clearview AI” app to identify two cops in a photograph taken on the train, according to an email made public by the Legal Aid Society.
“As per commissioner Reznick can you please identify the Members of service in the photo,” then-IAB Detective Alfredo Torres wrote to King.
An image attached to the email shows two men seated in a train car across the aisle from the camera. The photo appears to have been shot surreptitiously with a cellphone.
Both men’s faces are blacked out, but one is shown wearing a dress NYPD uniform, while the other man’s clothes are obscured by the uniformed leg of another passenger.
The timing of the email and contents of the photo suggests that the two men on the train are the cops who were suspended after the funeral of Simonsen, 42. The slain cop was killed by friendly fire during a botched robbery at a Queens cellphone store.
The email and photo are contained in 235 pages of NYPD correspondence related to the Clearview app, which was offered to the department and individual cops, free of charge, during 2018 and 2019 as part of the company’s bid to score a city contract.
The app can identify people using software tied to a massive database of images and information scraped from social media and other websites.
More than 40 cops signed up for the service even though they weren’t part of an official, three-month pilot program by the NYPD, according to the emails.
In addition to King, they included dozens of detectives from various narcotics units, fraud squads and financial task forces, as well as several sergeants, lieutenants and a captain, the emails show.
The highest-ranking department official who got a Clearview account was Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence John Miller, although an NYPD spokeswoman said he “never signed in or used” the service.
Last year, The Post exclusively reported that some cops continued using the Clearview app even after it was rejected by the department in March 2019 due to security concerns.
The NYPD later banned the use of any facial-recognition software by cops not assigned to its Facial Identification Section and also prohibited the FIS from using outside databases unless approved by the top brass “in a specific case for an articulable reason.”
The Legal Aid Society obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information lawsuit over the NYPD’s use of the Clearview app.
“Short of this litigation and these disclosures, the public would never know the extent to which NYPD employed Clearview — a controversial tool that other localities have banned outright,” said Jonathan McCoy of Legal Aid’s digital forensics unit.
The NYPD didn’t respond to questions about IAB’s use of the Clearview app, but a spokeswoman said it would have fallen into what was then a gray area of department policy.
“While institutionally, the NYPD has had a narrow use of facial recognition, our previous practices did not authorize the use of services such as Clearview IA nor did they specifically prohibit it simply because Clearview AI did not exist at the time our Facial Recognition Practices were established,” the spokeswoman said.
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