The use of facial recognition surveillance technology has been shown to be inaccurate, racially biased, and a threat to personal privacy. In 2019 the ACLU of Michigan and a coalition of civil rights organizations sent a letter urging the Detroit Police Department to end the use of this dangerous technology, but they refused to do so. A miscarriage of justice of the kind we had warned about then came to light. In January 2020, Detroit police officers arrested Robert Williams on his front lawn, in front of his wife and two young daughters, on charges that he had stolen watches from a Shinola store in Detroit. The arrest was based almost entirely on a facial recognition scan from security footage at the Shinola store, but it was dead wrong: Mr. Williams was not the man in the security footage and was nowhere near the store at the time of the theft. In April 2021 the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against the Detroit Police Department, alleging that the officers involved violated Mr. Williams’ rights under the Fourth Amendment and the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act by arresting him on the basis of this flawed technology. (Williams v. City of Detroit; ACLU of Michigan Attorneys Phil Mayor, Ramis Wadood, and Dan Korobkin; National ACLU Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler; co-counsel Michael J. Steinberg of U-M Law School, with student attorneys Eilidh Jenness, Ben Mordechai-Strongin, Jeremy Shur, and Deborah Won.)
The Michigan Legislature is in session.