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U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) wants the Justice Department to investigate AI tech and algorithms that can fuel racial biases and send "innocent people to prison.

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Senators question Justice Department funding for AI-powered policing tech



U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) wants the Justice Department to investigate AI tech and algorithms that can fuel racial biases and send "innocent people to prison."

 The Democrat was responding to an AP investigation that detailed flaws in an AI gunfire detection system, ShotSpotter. 

The tool has been cited as evidence in court cases but tossed out by some judges. 

: In one case, a man named Michael Williams was jailed for almost a year based on ShotSpotter evidence. 

A judge dismissed his case last month after prosecutors acknowledged they had insufficient evidence.

 “Fundamentally, these tools are outsourcing critical policing decisions, leaving the fate of people like Michael Williams to a computer,” Wyden said.

 ShotSpotter says its uses AI, algorithms, and sensors to classify sounds from audio recordings as gunshots. The AP, however, found that the system can misclassify fireworks and other sounds as gunshots, or miss live gunfire audio altogether, raising concerns about how it's used in court. 

More than 110 law enforcement agencies use ShotSptter's system, which was partially funded by Justice Department. 


 In April, Wyden and other Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to AG Merrick Garland, expressing concerns about DOJ funds going toward AI tech in law enforcement. 

Such algorithms can "suffer from a lack of meaningful oversight" and "amplify biases against historically marginalized groups," they noted. 

The lawmakers are still awaiting a Justice Department response to their request, which seeks stricter requirements on how federal funds are used in automated policing

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