Facial recognition software blasted by DPD board of commissioners after recent false arrest

The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners came out blasting facial recognition systems for being racist Thursday night.

It is the latest fallout for the false arrest of a pregnant woman for a carjacking she had nothing to do with, leading to a current lawsuit. A vote to ban facial recognition for the Detroit police failed tonight, which would have kept the department from using it for a year.

"This technology appears to be 'techno-racism,' it’s the new Jim Crow that’s falsely arresting innocent people here in Detroit," said Commissioner Willie Burton."This is the third incident here in the city of Detroit. America’s blackest and poorest city where three individuals has been misidentified by technology.

"Robert Williams. Michael Oliver who slept in the Wayne County Jail and had to eat bologna sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a crime he didn’t commit."

But Detroit Police Chief James White defended the software.

"There are, this year 161 homicides, facial recognition has assisted us in getting 16 murderers off the street," he said.

The board discussed the matter with Chief White who doubled down on his view that the arrest of Porcha Woodruff was due to bad investigative work - not a lead generated by facial recognition.

"We don’t need to fear the technology we need to hold folks accountable, which is what this presentation is about today," White said.

Chief White said the detective who misidentified Woodruff leading to her being frisked and cuffed in front of her daughters, is under investigation by Internal Affairs.

He also ordered a broader probe to see if a mix-up like this one happened in other cases.

"This was not facial recognition identifying anybody," White said. "In fact, facial recognition identified 73 people. Human error identified the wrong person and bad tactics, we arrested the wrong person. We have to do better.

"And commissioner, I understand your passion, maybe even your anger. What I am asking you to do, is to look at this whole, total circumstance. Not blame it on a tool but hold me accountable for the officer’s behavior."

The Board is looking at a resolution that would stop the use of facial recognition until the investigation into the carjacking false arrest is finished.

"We all recognize the fact that facial recognition is very controversial," said Commissioner Linda Bernard. "And that the algorithms that are using facial recognition are discriminatory, particularly with respect toward African Americans and people of color and that’s a national fact. Harvard has researched, everybody has researched it."