It’s incredible how, for decades upon decades, many black men have leveled charges that police officers have used illegal tactics and profiled them for no reason.
Given the media scrutiny of police officers, you would think they would be hypervigilant of how they interact with black men in general but especially when it comes to legal matters.
However, according to a New Your Times story by Kashmir Hill, three black men were wrongly accused of committing crimes after law enforcement officers relied on facial recognition software.
“Facial recognition systems have been used by police forces for more than two decades,” wrote Hill. “Recent studies by M.I.T. and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, have found that while the technology works relatively well on white men, the results are less accurate for other demographics, in part because of a lack of diversity in the images used to develop the underlying databases.”
For Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, the inherited flaws with facial recognition software almost cost him his freedom and years of psychological torture. According to the story, Williams received a call from Detroit Police informing him that he needed to turn himself in given that he was a suspect for committing a crime. When Williams reached the station, he was booked, his mug shot was taken, and he was fingerprinted; to cap it off, he spent the night in jail Crimes Based on Software.
The next day, two detectives brought him into a room and pulled out a piece of paper with his photo and the words “felony warrant” and “larceny,” was next to it.
Williams was accused of stealing from an upscale store in Detroit called Shinola, which sold quality watches, bicycles, and leather goods. The criminal complaint said surveillance video took a still image of an individual who had Williams’ features and who stole $3,800 worth of watches.
During police questioning, Williams, 42, was shown a second piece of paper that had the suspect’s close-up. However, the photo was blurry and appeared to not be Williams. Hill wrote, “he [Williams] picked up the image and held it next to his face. “No, this is not me,” you think all black men look alike?”
On the night Williams was arrested and stayed in jail overnight, it was his birthday Crimes Based on Software.
“Mr. Williams was kept in custody until that evening, 30 hours after being arrested and released on a $1,000 personal bond,” wrote Hill. “He waited outside in the rain for 30 minutes until his wife could pick him up. When he got home at 10 p.m., his five-year-old daughter was still awake. She said she was waiting for him because he had said while being arrested that he’d be right back.”
Although the photo did not appear to be Williams, when he appeared in court, the prosecutor moved to dismiss his case without prejudice, meaning that Williams could be charged later.
As far as Williams’ whereabouts the night of the theft, Hill wrote, “He has since figured out what he was doing the evening the shoplifting occurred. He was driving home from work and had posted a video to his private Instagram because a song he loved came on 1983’s “We Are One,” by Maze and Frankie Beverly.”
Here’s the story
He was accused of reaching into a teacher’s vehicle and taking his cellphone after the teacher recorded a fight at school. And when Detroit police got involved, they used facial recognition and a police lineup to identify Oliver as the culprit; he was charged with a felony count of robbery in 2019 Crimes Based on Software.
However, Oliver took photos of his tattooed arms and compared them to the individual in the photo who took the teacher’s phone. Oliver’s lawyer brought the photos to a supervisor in the prosecution’s office, and after the teacher reviewed the photographs, the prosecution determined that the man who stole the teacher’s phone was not Oliver and the case was dismissed.
Here’s Oliver’s story
He is another case in which he was wrongly accused of a crime when Detroit police used facial recognition to determine he was the one who committed the crime. In 2019, Parks was falsely accused of shoplifting and trying to hit an officer with his car, even though he was 30 miles away at the time of the incident.
Here’s his story: