Blue Line

Facial recognition research and partnership could have impact on future of policing

June 9, 2022  By Blue Line Staff / Ontario Tech University

June 6, 2022, Oshawa, Ont. – A primary research goal of Ontario Tech University is to ‘improve lives and the health of the planet through the ethical application of technology.’ While new technologies have the potential to solve a great number of societal problems, finding a balance between the greater public good and the reasonable use of technology sometimes generates complex debate.

One such area under scrutiny is policing and the use of facial recognition technology (FRT) as an investigation tool. Strong ethical and legal guidelines are paramount in ensuring public confidence that if FRT systems are deployed by law enforcement agencies, that they contribute to public safety, respect privacy rights and are tamper-proof.

At Ontario Tech, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities researchers Dr. Andrea Slane (Legal Studies) and Dr. Christopher O’Connor (Criminology and Justice) are exploring these concerns and implications in a broad multi-year community research partnership with the V13 Policetech Accelerator (a joint initiative of Northumberland Community Futures Development Corporation (NCFDC) and the Cobourg Police Service at Venture13 in Cobourg, Ontario), and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA). The project has secured federal funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

In 2020, with the support of FedDev Ontario, the Cobourg Police Service (CPS) teamed with NCFDC to launch theV13 Policetech Accelerator, a strategic initiative that drives innovative policing technologies and entrepreneurship to improve community safety.


The Accelerator awarded the Ontario Tech research team the opportunity to work with the frontline CPS Innovation Platoon (a select group of innovative frontline personnel) to develop and validate new approaches for modern policing in a controlled and defined small-town, pilot-scale environment.

Study conclusions anticipated by 2024 will explore ways out of the current impasse over FRT use by police in Canada. The project aims to identify good models of public engagement that allow people to make meaningful contributions, and offer a governance model that everyone can have faith in.

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