DETROIT – The use of facial technology led to the erroneous arrest of Black man in Detroit. His DNA, fingerprints and mug shot are now being removed from police files.
The victim of “shoddy investigative work,” 42-year-old Robert Williams was arrested in January in front of his family at their Farmington Hills home, The Associated Press reports. He was suspected of stealing five expensive watches from a Shinola store in Detroit in 2018 after his driver’s license photo was wrongly flagged as a likely match with surveillance video.
The Wayne County prosecutor’s office approved the warrant but dismissed the case earlier this year because the Shinola employee who identified Williams in a photo lineup was not present during the theft, the report said.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig apologized for the mistaken arrest. A potential first error came to light when an investigator notified the prosecutor’s office that the surveillance footage wasn’t clear enough to identify the suspect in it, the report said.
Craig’s department is working to scrub Williams’ fingerprints, mugshot and DNA profile from its files, the report said. Craig, a “strong believer” in facial recognition software, said the technology now is used only to aid in solving violent felonies in Detroit, not property crimes.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the use of facial technology by police, publicized Williams’ case.