Bossip Video

Surveillance camera with face recognition

Source: Scharfsinn86 / Getty

Technology has gone too far and the scary part about it is that it’s only going to go farther.

BOSSIP has previously reported on the dangers of technology in the context of criminal justice and policing. This is not the first time that a Black person has suffered needlessly because cops are too inept or too lazy to do their jobs properly.

According to Newsweek, a commonly named Black man named Robert Williams was arrested on January 9, 2020, by Detroit police officers in front of his wife and young daughters without being told what exactly he was being arrested for. Now in present day, police are under pressure to ban facial recognition technology after multiple mistakes.

Williams wrote an essay for the ACLU describing his harrowing experience.

As I was getting ready to head home from work one day in January of 2020, my wife called me and told me that a police officer had called and said I needed to turn myself in. She was scared and confused. The officers called me next, but wouldn’t explain why I was supposed to turn myself in or what I was accused of, so I thought it was probably a prank. I couldn’t imagine what else it could be. But as I pulled up to my house, a Detroit police squad car was waiting for me. The squad car swooped in from behind to block my SUV — as if I would make a run for it. One officer jumped out and asked if I was Robert Williams. I said I was. He told me I was under arrest.

After 30 hours of captivity on a filthy floor inside the Detroit Detention Center, Williams was finally told why he was now a prisoner. Someone had stolen watches from a store and the owner provided the police with a blurry, grainy, indistinguishable photo of the perpetrator from the security camera.

Investigators ran that unintelligible image through some janky a** facial recognition system and it kicked back Williams’ identity. Federal studies have shown that Black and Asian people are 100 times more likely to be misidentified than whites as the AI tech is not proficient at discerning darker skin.

Let Detroit Police Chief James E. White tell it, the guidelines under which this half-cocked computer program is to be used are very specific…

“The DPD has strong policies in place regarding the use of facial recognition technology, including: use is restricted to Part I Violent Crime (robbery, sexual assault, aggravated assault, homicide) or Home Invasion I (unlawful entry into a lawfully occupied home) investigations; and any match is only to be considered an investigative lead, not a positive identification of a suspect.

“There are a number of checks and balances in place to ensure ethical use of facial recognition, including: use on live or recorded video is prohibited; supervisor oversight; and weekly and annual reporting to the Board of Police Commissioners on the use of the software.”

We sure as hell can’t tell and neither can the Robert Williams. Subsequent to his unlawful arrest, Williams filed a lawsuit against the department and the city. Hopefully, he runs their pockets dry.


Bossip Comment Policy
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.