NYPD spokeswoman Sgt. Jessica McRorie issued a statement to CNN, saying police have been pursuing 28-year-old Derrick Ingram "for an assault on a police officer" during a protest in Manhattan on June 14. According to the officers' complaint, Ingram "placed a handheld megaphone directly against the officer's ear, activated the megaphone and yelled, causing pain and protracted impairment of hearing."
Police confirmed its use of facial recognition software in a statement to Gothamist.
"The NYPD uses facial recognition as a limited investigative tool, comparing a still image from a surveillance video to a pool of lawfully possessed arrest photos," a spokesperson told the publication, adding that "no one has ever been arrested solely on the basis of a computer match."
Gothamist reported the photos used to track down the activist appeared to have been taken from his Instagram.
Warriors In The Garden, an activist group co-founded by Ingram, issued a statement on Instagram to explain what happened during the raid in Manhattan. The group said NYPD held the activist hostage for five hours in his own home, telling him they have a warrant without providing proof of any papers.
"He asked for the warrant to be slid under the door. Then they quickly shifted their words to 'We’re working on getting one,'” the organization stated. "They began to bang on his door, have K-9’s scratching at his door, sharpshooters pointing into the window, drones flying to his window, police officers stationed in the building next door and 2 helicopters flying above his head."
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AUGUST 7TH: The NYPD forced a stand-off with one of our lead organizers and co-founder, Derrick “Dwreck” Ingram, and held hostage for 5 HOURS in his own home. NYPD arrived to his door stating they had a warrant for his arrest in regards to BAYSIDE and he needed to open the door immediately , he asked for the warrant to be slid under the door then they quickly shifted their words to “We’re working on getting one.” This entire process was very traumatic for Dwreck as they began to bang on his door, have K-9’s scratching at his door, sharpshooters pointing into the window, drones flying to his window, police officers stationed in the building next door and 2 helicopters flying above his head. We are NON-VIOLENT PROTESTORS and the work and dedication we have all put into this movement displayed this type of reaction. We will keep fighting and we will keep being the voice for the people. Dwreck has made the executive decision to turn himself in tomorrow morning and he will explain why! We are asking for all supporters from organizers to NYC citizens to please join us at 42ND STREET BRYANT PARK 8AM SHARP. **WILL BE PLANNING TO MARCH AT 8:15AM, PLEASE ARRIVE BETWEEN 7:50-8:00AM** #earlybirdgetstheworm One officer states in the video posted “Why don’t you be the WARRIOR that you state you are and come out and let’s face the system.” And to that, we say, #TAKEITTOTHESTREETS #ANDFUCKTHEPOLICE #nojusticenopeace
Ingram turned himself in the next day, facing a misdemeanor charge of third-degree assault. The district attorney's office said the protester was then released and arraigned.
Lupe Todd-Medina, a spokeswoman for NY County Defender Services, said the raid was "an unprecedented show of police overreach."
"The presence of NYPD officers on Mr. Ingram's fire escape, helicopters circling overhead, and police dogs was a shocking demonstration of the tactics the NYPD is willing to undertake to suppress dissent," Todd-Medina said in a statement.
Danny Frost, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said the department "does not condone the extraordinary tactics employed by police on Friday."
"These actions were disproportionate to the alleged offense that occurred two months ago, and unjustifiably escalated conflict between law enforcement and the communities we serve," Frost stated.
Speaking to a crowd at a park before turning himself in, Ingram said he was "highly traumatized" but that he would be focusing on making sure New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea is removed from his office.
Mayor Bill de Blasio applauded police for calling off the raid and detaining the activist peacefully.
"Commissioner Shea made the right decision to call off the operation," the mayor said. "Assaulting an officer is unacceptable and will always lead to consequences, but arrests must be made properly."
In regard to the facial recognition software, Ingram said "it's a waste of taxpayer money."
“We're being specifically targeted with this technology because of what we're protesting and because we're trying to deconstruct a system that they're a part of,” Ingram told Gothamist. “It's a waste of taxpayer money and dollars that could be reallocated to people struggling throughout this city.”
One of the most widely used face recognition tools is an app called Clearview, which is suspected of collecting people's photos without their permission. According to BuzzFeed News, the app has been used by major corporations and law enforcement.
In a statement to BuzzFeed, an NYPD spokesperson said the department doesn't have any agreement with the controversial app. The spokesperson added that the NYPD's “established practices did not authorize the use of services such as Clearview AI nor did they specifically prohibit it.”
“Technology developments are happening rapidly and law enforcement works to keep up with this technology in real time,” the spokesperson stated. “We are in the process of updating the NYPD’s policy on Facial Recognition practices to address emerging issues.”
Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD detective sergeant, justified the use of face recognition software in the case of Ingram.
“If you don't wanna get hunted down by the police, don't be yelling in cops' ears with bullhorns,” Giacalone told Gothamist. “When protesters cross the line and they’re doing stuff like this, then it’s no longer peaceable, and all bets are off at that point.”
De Blasio signed the Police Oversight of Surveillance Technology bill last month, requiring the department to disclose more information about its surveillance tactics. The mayor said the city's controversial arrests in recent months are isolated incidents.
“This police department is never going to interfere with people's rights to protest,” he said. “It is a fundamental right and, in fact, New York City over the years has done a damn good job in protecting that right.”