Detroit police chief calls Tlaib facial recognization idea ‘racist’

Detroit Police Chief James Craig has pushed back on Rep. Rashida Tlaib‘s (D-Mich.) suggestion that his department should use exclusively black employees for its facial recognition team to identify black suspects, calling the idea “racist” and “insulting.”

During a tour Monday of the department’s Real Time Crime Center, Tlaib said the analysts who examine the photos captured by the technology need to be “African Americans, not people that are not,” according to video published by the Detroit News.

“I think non-African Americans think African Americans all look the same,” Tlaib added, saying she had seen people in Congress confuse her colleagues, Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and John Lewis (D-Ga.), for one another.

“I trust people who are trained, regardless of race, regardless of gender. It’s about the training,” Craig, who is African American, said in response.

Following the tour, Craig told the newspaper: “We have a diverse group of crime analysts, and what she said — that non-whites [sic] 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.”

“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,” he added.

Tlaib told CNN she stood by the remarks, but added that she was concerned the focus on them took away from her main point, that such technology relies on human technicians who are not immune from bias.

“Our worry is that right now the dialogue is not about how really broken and inaccurate the system is,” Tlaib told the network.

The Detroit-area congresswoman has warned of the potential for error in facial recognition technology in the past, with the department’s official Twitter account inviting her to tour the facility after she said the department should “rethink this whole facial recognition bulls**t,” linking to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) calling for a ban on the technology.

“Facial recognition technology is flawed, inaccurate, and broken. This technology is proven to misidentify Black and Brown folks at high rates and it is deeply concerning that it is being used in the city of Detroit – a city that is 80% Black,” Tlaib said in a comment to The Hill.
“Chief Craig is trying to use any and every tactic to distract from the department’s use of this system. The science is clear. This technology is not going to be made better by adding another layer of bias to try and correct its flaws and Chief Craig needs to realize that.”

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