Seattle Police Department Cancels AI Contract Amidst Controversy Over Officer’s Inappropriate Comments


  • Seattle Police cancel AI contract due to officer’s controversial comments.
  • Truleo’s AI flagged sensitive keywords, raising privacy concerns.
  • Debate over AI’s role in policing and its impact on officer privacy.

Recently, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) has terminated its contract with the artificial intelligence (AI) service provider Truleo, which specializes in analyzing body camera footage. This decision comes in the wake of a scandal involving Officer Daniel Auderer and his inappropriate comments following the tragic death of Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old graduate student, in a police car accident. The incident has raised questions about the use of AI in policing and the protection of officers’ privacy.

Truleo’s AI software raises concerns

Truleo’s AI software, which is designed to analyze body camera footage, came under scrutiny for its algorithm’s “risk” label application. The software reportedly flagged videos containing specific keywords, including the word “dead.” This automated labeling system, intended to identify potentially problematic situations, has stirred controversy over its accuracy and implications for privacy.

Renewal plans derailed

Records obtained by investigative news outlet Open Vallejo revealed that as of December, the Seattle Police Department had intended to renew its contract with Truleo for an additional two years. However, this plan was abruptly halted when Mike Solan, the President of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG), learned about the department’s use of Truleo. Solan confronted Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz, triggering a cascade of events leading to the contract’s cancellation.

Officer Auderer’s controversial remarks

The controversy began when Officer Daniel Auderer was assigned to perform a routine sobriety test on Officer Kevin Dave, who had been involved in a tragic accident with Jaahnavi Kandula. Auderer’s recorded comments during a phone call with SPOG President Mike Solan raised serious concerns. Auderer was heard saying, “She is dead,” and suggested that a check for $11,000 should be written, adding, “She was 26 anyway. She had limited value.” These remarks drew widespread condemnation and sparked outrage both within and outside the police department.

Union’s response and officer privacy concerns

SPOG President Mike Solan expressed deep concerns about the use of AI technology within the department, stating that officers felt as if they were being spied on. He emphasized that the situation had eroded trust among officers and labeled it one of the most significant issues to plague the department. Solan’s stance resonated with many officers who worried about their privacy rights.

An SPD spokesperson acknowledged that the department had initially entered into a technology demonstration project with Truleo, intending to validate its functionality through a limited pilot program. However, the decision to discontinue its use came after privacy rights advocates voiced concerns that the AI also reviewed civilian footage. Furthermore, it became apparent that the AI system struggled to grasp nuances such as sarcasm and the full context of interactions, rendering its analysis largely ineffective.

Two cities take a stand

Seattle and Vallejo are the only two law enforcement agencies known to have terminated their contracts with Truleo. In both cases, union officials campaigned against the technology, citing concerns about the potential exposure of problematic officer behavior.

Truleo’s role in policing

Truleo’s AI technology processes body camera videos for police and law enforcement agencies nationwide. Its primary purpose is to automate supervision, facilitate coaching, and promote professionalism among officers. The AI can flag potential risks when officers relay threats, use insulting language, or engage in unprofessional behavior. It can even detect tone, politeness, and gratitude, while also evaluating officers’ explanations for arrests or fines.

The SPD had been utilizing Truleo’s services from 2021 until February 2023, when the contract was terminated.

SPOG responds to public outrage

In response to public outrage and protests surrounding the incident, the Seattle Police Officers Guild issued a statement in mid-September. The statement emphasized that the video capturing Officer Auderer’s comments only portrayed one side of the conversation, implying that there was more detail and nuance yet to be made public. SPOG expressed confidence in the Office of Police Accountability’s ability to conduct a thorough and fair investigation into the matter.

The controversy surrounding the Seattle Police Department’s use of AI technology highlights the complex relationship between modern policing methods and the protection of officers’ privacy, as well as the ongoing debate about the role of AI in law enforcement. It remains to be seen how this incident will influence future decisions regarding the use of AI in policing and the privacy rights of officers involved.

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Glory Kaburu

Glory is an extremely knowledgeable journalist proficient with AI tools and research. She is passionate about AI and has authored several articles on the subject. She keeps herself abreast of the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning and writes about them regularly.

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