Controversy Surrounds Detroit Police’s Facial Recognition Technology

**Detroit Woman Sues City and Police Officer over False Arrest**

A Detroit woman, Porcha Woodruff, is taking legal action against the city and a police officer after being falsely arrested when she was eight months pregnant. The arrest was made based on facial recognition technology, which is now facing multiple lawsuits filed by three Black Michigan residents. Woodruff claims that the arrest was traumatic for her and her children, and that it caused significant emotional distress. The case against her was eventually dismissed due to lack of evidence.

**False Arrest and Emotional Distress**

Woodruff was preparing her two children for school on February 16 when six Detroit police officers arrived at her house with an arrest warrant for robbery and carjacking. Woodruff’s children witnessed the arrest and were understandably traumatized by the experience. While the case against her was dismissed, Woodruff claims to have suffered emotional distress as a result of the arrest, which could have potentially harmed her pregnancy.

**Facial Recognition Technology in Question**

Woodruff’s arrest was based on the Detroit Police Department’s facial recognition technology. The technology mistakenly identified her as the suspect in a robbery and carjacking that took place in January. The victim of the crime positively identified Woodruff from a photo lineup presented by the police. However, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is now urging the Detroit Police Department to end the use of facial recognition technology, citing Woodruff’s wrongful arrest as the third known incident of its kind. The ACLU claims that the technology has a higher rate of misidentifying people of color, and argues that it should not be solely relied upon as probable cause for arrests.

**Previous Incidents and Lawsuits**

Woodruff’s case is not the first instance of a wrongful arrest due to facial recognition technology in Detroit. Robert Williams, a Black man, was mistakenly identified as a suspected shoplifter and subsequently arrested. He filed a lawsuit in 2021 seeking compensation and restrictions on the city’s use of the technology. Another Black man, Michael Oliver, also sued the city in 2021 after being falsely arrested because of the technology, which ultimately led to him losing his job.

**Criticism and Concerns**

Critics of facial recognition technology argue that it disproportionately misidentifies people of color compared to white individuals. Woodruff’s lawsuit highlights this issue, stating that Black citizens are more likely to be misidentified by the technology. The lawsuit also emphasizes that facial recognition alone should not be considered sufficient probable cause for arrests. The ACLU of Michigan has expressed deep concern over the Detroit Police Department’s continued reliance on flawed technology for making arrests.

**Response from Authorities**

The Wayne County prosecutor’s office has defended the arrest warrant, stating that it was appropriate based on the available facts. They claim that the case was ultimately dismissed because the complainant did not appear in court. Detroit Police Chief James E. White has expressed deep concern over the allegations made in Woodruff’s lawsuit and has stated that the department is taking the matter seriously. Further investigation is needed to address the issue raised by the lawsuit.

**Seeking Change**

Woodruff, who believes that her pregnancy status influenced how she was treated by the police, hopes that her lawsuit will bring about changes in how law enforcement agencies use facial recognition technology. She wants to ensure that no one else experiences the same wrongful arrest and hopes that her case will serve as a catalyst for reform.

In conclusion, Porcha Woodruff’s false arrest based on facial recognition technology highlights the potential flaws and dangers of relying solely on such technology for making arrests. The incident, along with previous wrongful arrests, calls into question the reliability and fair application of facial recognition technology, especially when it comes to individuals of color. The lawsuits filed by Woodruff and others demonstrate the urgent need for reform and stricter guidelines to address these concerns.

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