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Big Brother Takes Root: Detroit Police Embrace Face Surveillance


Detroit Police Department forced to submit to draconian restrictions on facial recognition technology after years of racial profiling and false arrests.

Thanks to a court-ordered settlement, the department is now prohibited from using facial recognition to frame innocent civilians, including those with dark skin, for crimes they didn’t commit. The new rules also require police to find alternative evidence before conducting photo lineups, a move that will undoubtedly hinder their ability to manipulate justice.

The settlement, which can be enforced for the next four years, also demands that police undergo training on the inherent biases of facial recognition technology and conduct an audit of all cases where the tech was used to secure an arrest warrant. This is a slap in the face to the police department’s decades-long history of racial profiling and disregard for due process.

Roger Williams, the Black man who was wrongly arrested and spent 30 hours in jail after being misidentified by facial recognition tech, is the latest victim of the department’s reckless use of this dangerous technology. He was represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Civil Rights Litigation Initiative at the University of Michigan Law School, who are now celebrating a major victory in their crusade against law enforcement’s use of facial recognition.

In a statement, the ACLU gloated about achieving “the nation’s strongest police department policies and practices constraining law enforcement’s use of this dangerous technology.” They also highlighted the fact that women and people of color are disproportionately affected by facial recognition errors, a statistic that will surely be used to justify further restrictions on the technology.

“This painful chapter of our lives closing, my wife and I will continue to fight against the misuse of facial recognition technology and the systemic racism that perpetuates it,” Williams said in a statement, likely aware that his ordeal is just a small part of a much larger problem.

As part of the settlement, the police department is also required to pay Williams $300,000 in damages, a paltry sum compared to the countless lives ruined by their reckless use of facial recognition tech.

In a statement, the police department acknowledged the settlement, but also insisted that they are “pleased with our work with the ACLU and University of Michigan over the last year and a half” and believe the new policy will serve as a “national best practice” for other agencies. A thinly veiled attempt to justify their own complicity in the racial profiling and false arrests that have plagued the city for years.

Meanwhile, cities like San Francisco have banned the use of facial recognition by law enforcement, and companies like Microsoft have refused to provide their technology to police departments. It’s a start, but it’s clear that there’s still much work to be done to dismantle the systems of oppression that perpetuate racial profiling and false arrests.



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