FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 7, 2023
DETROIT, Mich. — The ACLU of Michigan is calling on the Detroit Police Department (DPD) to end its use of faulty facial recognition technology following the filing of yet another federal lawsuit alleging a wrongful arrest based on a false match. Porcha Woodruff, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her arrest, represents the third known allegation of a wrongful arrest by DPD in as many years based on reliance on a false facial recognition match.
Robert Williams was the first known case of such a wrongful arrest by DPD, whose officers handcuffed the Farmington Hills resident on his front lawn in front of his wife and two young daughters based on the flawed technology. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the ACLU, and the University of Michigan Law School’s Civil Rights Litigation Initiative (CRLI) represent Mr. Williams in his lawsuit against DPD. The lawsuit contends that DPD’s reliance on facial recognition technology, combined with inadequate policies, failure to train investigators, flawed and suggestive photographic lineups, and the technology’s higher false match rate for Black people, led to Williams’ unconstitutional arrest and will continue to violate the constitutional rights of innocent people unless stopped.
Ms. Woodruff is the sixth person in the nation—and the third in Detroit alone—to report being falsely accused of a crime as a result of facial recognition technology used by police to attempt to match an unknown suspect’s face to a photograph in a database. All six people have been Black, and Ms. Woodruff is the first woman to report it happening to her.
“It’s deeply concerning that the Detroit Police Department knows the devastating consequences of using flawed facial recognition technology as the basis for someone’s arrest and continues to rely on it anyway,” said Phil Mayor, senior staff attorney at ACLU of Michigan. “As Ms. Woodruff’s horrifying experience illustrates, the Department’s use of this technology must end. Furthermore, the DPD continues to hide its abuses of this technology, forcing people whose rights have been violated to expose its wrongdoing case by case. DPD should not be permitted to avoid transparency and hide its own misconduct from public view at the same time it continues to subject Detroiters to dragnet surveillance.”