Report: Seattle Police ended contract with AI service after Auderer’s comments
Sep 28, 2023, 7:35 PM
(Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP file)
According to a new report, Seattle Police Department (SPD) canceled its contract with artificial intelligence (AI) service, Truleo, a company that analyzes body camera footage, less than a month after Officer Daniel Auderer’s inappropriate comments over the death of Jaahnavi Kandula with Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG) President Mike Solan were recorded.
Open Vallejo‘s investigation, Truleo’s AI software is programmed to apply a “risk” label to videos that contain certain words, including “dead.” Open Vallejo, based in California, labels itself an “independent, non-partisan, nonprofit newsroom serving the public interest.”
“Records obtained by Open Vallejo show that, as of December, the Seattle Police Department intended to renew its Truleo contract for an additional two years,” Open Vallejo‘s wrote. “But when Solan learned about the department’s use of Truleo — less than two weeks after his conversation with Auderer about Kandula’s death — the union president confronted Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz.”
Auderer was assigned to perform a routine sobriety test on Officer Kevin Dave on Jan. 23. Dave is who struck Kandula, a 23-year-old graduate student, while driving his police car 74 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone while he was headed to a drug overdose call.
“She is dead,” Auderer was heard saying on a phone call with SPOG’s Solan, according to captured bodycam footage. He said a check for $11,000 should just be written. “She was 26 anyway. She had limited value,” Auderer said.
Seattle Police union’s response to the tech
The department ended its contract on the same day Solan personally complained to Diaz, Solan told Jason Rantz on KTTH 770 AM.
“The officers feel as if they were spied on,” Solan explained to Rantz in February. “And this is probably one of the biggest significant issues ever to plague this agency in terms of how employees are treated. And in fact, the department has broken the trust of the officers.”
More on Solan pushing against AI tech within SPD: Cops livid after Seattle Police Department ‘spied’ on them with AI
An SPD spokesperson confirmed with The Jason Rantz Show the department “entered a technology demonstration project and decided it had sufficient promise to attempt a limited pilot, to validate functionality.” The department discontinued its use, the spokesperson continued, after hearing from privacy rights advocates who noted the AI reviews civilian footage, too.
“The AI can’t identify sarcasm, nor does it understand the full context of interactions, rendering the analysis useless,” Rantz wrote.
The departments in Vallejo and Seattle are the only law enforcement agencies to have terminated their contracts with Truleo, Du Sault wrote. “In both cases, union officials campaigned to stop their department from using the technology after it allegedly risked surfacing problematic officer behavior,” the author added.
More on Auderer’s comments: City officials ‘disgusted’ by bodycam footage, says ‘fix the culture’
Truleo processes body camera videos for police and other law enforcement departments across the country to help automate supervision, facilitate coaching and promote police professionalism. The technology could send alerts of risk if the officer relayed a threat, used insulting language or profanity or anything else the AI deems “unprofessional.” The technology can even detect politeness and gratitude through tone, while also grading officers for their explanations on why someone is being arrested or fined.
The SPD used Truleo from 2021 until February 2023, according to Open Vallejo.
SPOG released an additional statement in mid-September after outrage over the incident went public, including protests around Seattle and a demand from the Consulate General of India in San Francisco for the Office of Police Accountability to further investigate Kandula’s death.
“The video captures only one side of the conversation,” SPOG wrote. “There is much more detail and nuance that has not been made public yet. SPOG has full confidence that the civilian-led police accountability system known as the Office of Police Accountability will conduct a thorough and fair investigation.”
Contributing: Steve Coogan