Detroit police board votes to approve DPD's use of facial recognition technology

Posted at 3:35 PM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-20 09:35:00-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The Detroit Police Board of Commissioners has voted to approve the Detroit Police Department's use of facial recognition technology.

The city started using it in 2017 without approval from the Board of Police Commissioners. On Thursday, the board voted 7-3 to approve the use.

As critics of the program plan to protest, Chief James Craig says it's one of many tools his department uses to solve crimes.

Chief Craig say the it's one of many tools they use to solve violent crimes.

However, his critics say this technology could cause harm to people, especially African Americans..

"I’m satisfied with DPD using it in an ethical way, and if a police department tried to use it improperly, that person would be held accountable," he said ahead of the vote.

However, the concerns among opposition are growing louder. A coalition of at least 16 groups say they're against the program.

And now, the American Civil Liberties Union is joining the fight.

Eric Williams is an attorney with the local chapter and Detroit Justice Center.

"If it were white people who were misidentified at the same rate that black people are misidentified by this technology, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” he says. “People would say it doesn’t work... in a city that’s 80% black, that’s problematic."

The ACLU says they filed a Freedom of Information request seeking all records on the use of the technology.

Williams says it's not for prime time.

"It should make them feel afraid that we are being targeted in ways that no other group is being targeted," he says.

Chief Craig admits the software has major flaws.

But he says the technology is only one of many tools combined that will help solve violent crime.

"Based on my understanding of the technology that if we just relied on technology alon,e it would misidentify probably 97-98% of the time and we're very concerned about that – we don’t want the technology embedded in any of our cameras," he says.

Chief Craig says they never make arrests based solely on the use of the technology.

Still, Williams say the program should be put on pause.

"If there are that many issues with it, why don’t we hold off until technology is more mature?" he asks.

Chief Craig says their main goal is to be transparent with the public.