Detroit Police Reform Facial Recognition Policy After Wrongful Arrest

The Detroit Police Department (DPD) has revised its facial recognition policies following a legal settlement, as reported by Tech Crunch. The changes come after the wrongful arrest of Robert Williams in 2020, highlighting concerns over the reliability and ethical use of the technology.

Under the new guidelines, the DPD is prohibited from arresting individuals based solely on facial recognition results or photo lineups generated by the technology. This shift aims to prevent errors like the one that led to Williams’ false identification and subsequent arrest. There must now be additional supporting evidence before photo lineups can be used in investigations.

Williams’ ordeal began when a grainy image from poorly lit footage was run through the DPD’s facial recognition software. Despite the unclear image, the department relied on it to arrest Williams for a theft at a Shinola store in October 2018. He was detained for 30 hours before being released on a personal bond. Williams’ experience underscores the flaws in using facial recognition technology as the sole basis for arrests.

Reflecting on the incident, Williams shared the emotional toll it took on his family. “My wife and young daughters had to watch helplessly as I was arrested for a crime I didn’t commit,” he said. “By the time I got home from jail, I had already missed my youngest losing her first tooth, and my eldest couldn’t even bear to look at my picture. Even now, years later, it still brings them to tears when they think about it.”

The new policies will be enforceable by a court for the next four years. Additionally, the DPD will provide training and education on the risks and limitations of facial recognition technology to ensure officers are better equipped to use it responsibly.

This move aligns with broader trends across the country where several cities have banned the use of facial recognition by law enforcement. Companies like Microsoft have also restricted the use of their AI facial recognition software by authorities, citing similar concerns about accuracy and civil liberties.

These policy updates aim to restore trust and ensure that technological advancements do not compromise justice. By requiring corroborating evidence, the DPD hopes to prevent future wrongful arrests and the accompanying trauma experienced by innocent individuals like Williams.