DETROIT (AP) – A black man wrongfully arrested after Detroit police used facial recognition technology to have his DNA, fingerprints and mugshot removed from law enforcement records, officials said Friday.
Robert Williams was the victim of “sloppy investigative work,” said police chief James Craig.
Williams, 42, was arrested in January for his family at their home in Farmington Hills, a Detroit suburb. He was accused of stealing five expensive watches from a Shinola store in Detroit in 2018.
The photo of Williams’s driver’s license was falsely marked as a likely match with in-store surveillance video, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
After approval of an arrest warrant, Wayne County prosecutor dismissed the case earlier this year, noting that a Shinola employee who identified Williams in a photo gallery was not present at the time of the theft.
“I will personally apologize for the arrest,” Craig told WDIV-TV. “It had nothing to do with the technology. But it certainly had everything to do with bad detective work.
“But it’s in a bright light,” said Craig. The third researcher assigned to this task discovered problems. The video was not as clear as he thought it should be. The fact that he just didn’t like the whole thing. He informed the public prosecutor’s office. … I applaud the detective who did a good job. “
Police are working to remove the record and remove Williams’ fingerprints, mugshot photo and DNA profile from files, Sgt said. Nicole Kirkwood, a spokeswoman.
Craig, who described himself as a “strong advocate” of facial recognition software, said the technology is now used only as a means to solve potentially violent crimes in Detroit, not as property crimes.
The ACLU, which opposes the use of facial technology by the police, published Williams’s case.
Former prosecutor Mayor Mike Duggan said he was “very angry” at how Williams was treated. He blamed “inadequate” work by police and prosecutors, but said the technology can be useful if handled appropriately.
“What you need to do is make sure you have the correct protocols,” said the mayor. “Since September, there have been a whole series of protocols that this incident would not have made possible.”
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