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C's players pen letter to Baker about important racial justice issue

/ by Darren Hartwell
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The Boston Celtics displayed some teamwork Wednesday in an area that has nothing to do with basketball.

The entire Celtics roster co-wrote an opinion piece in Wednesday's edition of The Boston Globe condemning Mass. Governor Charlie Baker's decision to remove proposed regulations on the government use of facial recognition technology in his amendments to a police reform bill.

The legislation would have barred public agencies from using facial recognition technology that wasn't from the Registry of Motor Vehicles and required police to request a facial recognition search from the RMV only in special circumstances.

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Baker opposed the legislation, writing that it "ignores the important role (facial recognition) can play in solving crime.”

However, Celtics players argued that facial recognition technology is flawed and biased "with significantly higher error rates when used against people of color and women."

They cited a recent American Civil Liberties Union study that found facial recognition software falsely identified 27 players out of a group of 188 New England athletes.

"This bias against Black people and other people of color is baked into the criminal legal system, and it’s perpetuated at every level, including the tools that police departments use," the players wrote. "That’s why we were disappointed to see that Governor Charlie Baker, in his amendments to the police reform legislation, removed the bill’s proposed regulations of government use of facial recognition technology.

 

"Baker’s rejection is deeply troubling because this technology supercharges racial profiling by police and has resulted in the wrongful arrests of innocent people."

Celtics players believe the initial legislation, which still allows police to search the RMV image database upon request to identify violent crime suspects, "strikes the right balance" of "protecting both our right to be free from unchecked government surveillance and the government’s ability to investigate the most serious crimes."

While Celtics players share the byline, it appears Jaylen Brown -- who has been outspoken on racial justice issues since George Floyd's death in May -- spearheaded the effort earlier this week.

The bill is now in the hands of Mass. lawmakers, who will decide whether to accept Baker's changes or make amendments before sending it back to the Governor.