Detroit Police Restrict Facial Recognition Use After Lawsuit

In response to a legal settlement, the Detroit Police Department (DPD) has announced significant changes to its facial recognition technology policies. This decision follows the wrongful arrest of Robert Williams in 2020, which highlighted critical issues with the department’s reliance on the technology, according to Tech Crunch.

The new rules prevent the DPD from making arrests based solely on facial recognition results or using photo lineups derived exclusively from such technology. Investigations must now include additional evidence before a photo lineup can be conducted, ensuring that facial recognition is not the sole determinant in identifying suspects.

Williams was falsely identified from a grainy image captured in poor lighting during a theft at a Shinola store in October 2018. The unclear footage was processed through the DPD’s facial recognition software, leading to Williams’ wrongful arrest. He was held for 30 hours before being released, an experience that left a lasting impact on his family.

“My wife and young daughters had to watch helplessly as I was arrested for a crime I didn’t commit,” Williams recalled. “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 revised policies, which will be enforceable by a court for four years, also include mandatory training for officers on the risks associated with facial recognition technology. This educational component aims to mitigate future errors and ensure a more judicious application of the technology.

The Williams case is a stark reminder of the potential pitfalls of facial recognition technology, which has led several cities to ban its use by law enforcement. Furthermore, tech giants like Microsoft have also restricted law enforcement’s use of their AI software for facial recognition, highlighting widespread concerns about its reliability and ethical implications.

Sheriff Bill Leeper of the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office called the deputy a “hero” for the quick-thinking assistance that he provided to the distressed victim.

These changes reflect a growing awareness of the need to balance technological advancements with civil liberties and accuracy. By implementing stricter guidelines, the DPD aims to prevent future wrongful arrests and restore public trust in their use of technology in law enforcement.

The updated policies underscore the importance of supporting evidence in investigations and ensure that facial recognition technology serves as a tool, not the final arbiter, in the pursuit of justice.