Wrongly Accused Man Receives $300,000 Settlement, Detroit Police to Review Face Recognition Cases

Wrongly Accused Man Receives $300,000 Settlement, Detroit Police to Review Face Recognition Cases

The city of Detroit has agreed to pay $300,000 to a man who was falsely accused of theft and to alter how police use face recognition technology to solve crimes.

The conditions are part of a legal settlement with Robert Williams. His driver’s license photo was wrongly identified as a possible match for a man spotted on security video at a Shinola watch store in 2018.

“We are extremely excited that going forward there will be more safeguards on the use of this technology with we hope to live in a better world because of it,” Williams told the media. “even though what we would like for them to do is not use it at all.”

The arrangement was announced on Friday by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Civil Rights Litigation Initiative at the University of Michigan Law School. They claim the technology is defective and racially biased. Williams is black.

According to the ACLU, Detroit police will not be able to conduct arrests based simply on facial recognition findings or photo lineups generated by a facial recognition search.

“They can get a facial recognition lead and then they can go out and do old-fashioned police work and see if there’s any reason to believe that the person who was identified … might have committed a crime,” said Phil Mayor, an attorney with the ACLU.

Detroit police had no immediate reaction on the deal. Last August, while the litigation was still ongoing, Chief James White announced a new technology policy. A woman who was eight months pregnant said she had been wrongfully charged with carjacking, prompting the move.

At the time, White stated that police needed other proof beyond technology to believe a suspect had the “means, ability, and opportunity to commit the crime.”

According to the agreement with Williams, Detroit police would review cases involving facial recognition from 2017 to 2023. If officers discover that an arrest was conducted without independent proof, they will notify the prosecutor nbcconnecticut stated.

“When someone is arrested and charged based on a facial recognition scan and a lineup result, they often face significant pressure to plead guilty,” the mayor pointed out. “That is all the more true if the individual — unlike Mr. Williams — has a criminal record and thus faces longer sentences and more suspicious police and prosecutors.”

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