Detroit, MI – The Detroit police chief on Thursday batted down U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib’s (D-Michigan) assertions that only African Americans can confirm the identities of other African Americans when analyzing hits on facial recognition software.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig called Tlaib’s suggestion that she only hire black people to be analysts appalling, FOX News reported.
"It's a software. It's biometrics," Chief Craig, who is African American, said. "And, to put race in it... we're talking about trained professionals. My staff goes through intense training with the FBI, and so they're not looking at race but it's measurements. We were appalled when she made this statement."
"We even put her in the seat of an analyst so she could understand how it works!" the police chief continued. "And, she was somewhat resistant. Not really interested.”
“But, it was important for me to invite her in after she made her initial comments,” he said. “So, at least she could learn something about how we use it and maybe have a great appreciation for it."
On Aug. 20, Tlaib sent a snarky tweet to the Detroit Police after Presidential hopeful and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) called for a ban on facial recognition software, FOX News reported.
".@detroitpolice You should probably rethink this whole facial recognition bulls**t, she tweeted."
Chief Craig responded to her tweet the same day with an invitation for Tlaib to visit the department’s highly-effective Real Time Crime Center inside police headquarters.
“@RashidaTlaib Before you criticize the software, come to our Real Time Crime Center to see how we @detroitpolice responsibly use it in efforts to identify criminals involved in violent crimes. Let’s set a date,” Detroit police replied.
Tlaib accepted the invitation and on Monday, Chief Craig gave the congresswoman a tour of the facility and explained how the police department uses facial recognition technology to find suspects, FOX News reported.
During the tour, the congresswoman opined that only black people should be allowed run the software, the Detroit News reported.
“Analysts need to be African-Americans, not people that are not,” Tlaib told Chief Craig. “It’s true, I think non-African-Americans think African-Americans all look the same!”
She said, as an example, that she has seen people confuse U.S. Representatives John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), FOX News reported.
“I’ve seen it even on the House floor: People calling Elijah Cummings 'John Lewis,' and John Lewis 'Elijah Cummings,' and they’re totally different people,” Tlaib told the police chief. “I see it all the time, and I love them because they go along with it.”
Both congressmen are senior citizens, African American, and bald, and do bear a striking resemblance to one another.
Chief Craig was having none of it, the Detroit News reported.
“I trust people who are trained, regardless of race, regardless of gender,” the chief told her.
Tlaib pointed out that the error rate for the software among African Americans was about 60 percent, the Detroit News reported.
“I understand the technology real well,” Chief Craig replied, according to the Detroit News.
“See if you can get some of our money back until they fix it,” Tlaib suggested.
“No,” the chief replied, shutting her down.
The police chief explained that people were not prosecuted solely based on facial recognition results.
Chief Craig said that after the tour was completed, a number of outraged employees approached him about the congresswoman’s remarks during the tour, the Detroit News reported.
“It’s insulting,” the chief said. “We have a diverse group of crime analysts, and what she said — that non-whites should not work in that capacity because they think all black people look alike — is a slap in the face to all the men and women in the crime center.”
He said all officers and civilian employees go through the Detroit PD’s mandatory implicit bias training, according to the Detroit News.
“That’s something we train for, and it’s valuable training, but to say people should be barred from working somewhere because of their skin color? That’s racist,” Chief Craig said.