The technology is billed as a “virtual sergeant” — an omnipresent artificial intelligence capable of reviewing every minute of every police officer’s body camera footage across an entire department, analyzing how each officer handled every call.
The Aurora Police Department plans to implement just such AI tech in the near future, becoming the first law enforcement agency in Colorado to do so.
The department is finalizing a contract with Truleo, a company that uses artificial intelligence software to analyze police officers’ speech as recorded by their own body cameras. The software not only transcribes the audio and looks for keywords, but interprets the meaning of what officers say and analyzes text in context.
Truleo then looks for speech that either displays professionalism — like politeness, gratitude or offering an explanation — or is evidence of negative behaviors, such as insults, profanity and threats. It can flag potentially negative interactions to supervisors as well as measure an officer’s professionalism.
The Aurora Police Department, like many other law enforcement agencies, does not have the bandwidth to review the thousands of hours of body camera footage recorded every week, interim Chief Art Acevedo said. Not only will the technology help the department identify questionable actions by officers, but it will also find examples of good work.
“This is a tool that will help us identify the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said.
Several other police agencies across the country are using Truleo, though one major department paused its use of the technology due to pushback from civil rights advocates and its own officers. Civil rights leaders in Colorado said the public must be involved in decisions about when and how police can use artificial intelligence.
The Aurora Police Department does not have an exact date for rolling out the technology as the contract has not yet been finalized, Acevedo said. The contract will be presented to the Aurora City Council and will cost approximately $200,000 a year, he said. That’s a small fraction of the 928-person department’s $150 million budget.
“If it were up to me we would’ve started yesterday,” he said.
One of the company’s co-founders, Anthony Tassone, called Truleo a “virtual sergeant” who is reviewing every officer’s every action.
“We’re a solution to a huge problem in policing in that they are spread thin and there is not a deep supervisory layer,” he said.
The technology can tell whether an officer uses force by looking for phrases like “stop resisting” and flag the footage — even if the officer doesn’t report a use-of-force incident, Tassone said. The technology doesn’t analyze tone, cadence or volume and instead only focuses on the words spoken, he said.
Truleo also does not evaluate the video footage because accurate technology to do so does not yet exist, Tassone said.
Over time, the department can use the program’s data to see which officers display the highest level of professionalism and which consistently act riskily, he said.
Acevedo said the analysis will help with training and can be used by supervisors to help officers look for areas of improvement. He compared it to a sports team reviewing game film.
Acevedo worked for Truleo as a strategic adviser from July to December. He disinvested from the company before taking the position as Aurora’s interim chief, he said. A quote from him in support of Truleo remains on the home page of the company’s website.
The department’s previous interim chief, Dan Oates, started the contracting process with Truleo before Acevedo’s arrival, Acevedo said.
The Seattle Police Department was one of the first major departments to try out the technology, but it has put its program on pause due to privacy concerns from civil liberty advocates and pushback from the police union.
The general public needs to know when police are collecting data about them — like audio recordings of their voice — and should have a say in how police use artificial intelligence, said Anaya Robinson, senior policy strategist at the ACLU of Colorado. Technology evolves much quicker than laws and regulations, he said.
Data is also needed to prove that software like Truleo helps minimize officer misconduct, Robinson said.
“The reality is that a lot of people make the same argument about body cams, that when officers think they are being surveilled by their departments on a regular basis that that would lower deaths and brutality,” he said. “But studies show that that’s not true, that it’s had a minimal effect.”
Departments in California, Pennsylvania and Florida are also using Truleo, according to the company.
“Good police like what we’re doing,” Tassone said.
Other large law enforcement agencies on the Front Range use services that automatically transcribe body camera footage and many are looking in the near future to use technology that flags keywords.
The Denver Police Department does not use body camera transcription for patrol stops and only uses it to transcribe internal affairs interviews. The Lakewood Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office use technology that automatically transcribes their officers’ body camera footage, but they do not have the system set to automatically scan for keywords.
Westminster police tried out the transcription service and keyword flagging software offered by Axon — one of the country’s largest body camera companies — but found it wasn’t up to par and stopped using it.
For example, the software could pick out an offensive word, but often couldn’t tell whether the officer, subject or someone in the background said it, Cmdr. Tim Read said. That ultimately creates more work for supervisors.
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