Black Democrats in Lansing propose banning facial recognition technology in Michigan

click to enlarge DPD Chief James Craig inside the city's Real Time Crime Center at police headquarters. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
DPD Chief James Craig inside the city's Real Time Crime Center at police headquarters.

Mounting calls to ban facial recognition technology are now coming from every level of government, from the city of Detroit to Congress.

Democrats in the state House said Thursday they are proposing a ban on the technology as part of a sweeping overhaul of police departments following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The ban was proposed by Detroit Democrats and the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus.

Similar bills were introduced in the U.S. House and Senate last month, just days after the ACLU filed a complaint against Detroit police for arresting the wrong Black man after the technology incorrectly flagged him as a shoplifting suspect.

Detroit City Council is considering a proposal that would effectively end facial recognition by refusing to extend a contract with one of the companies that handles the city’s software.

Facial-recognition technology has come under fire as a growing number of experts say it’s unconstitutional, unreliable, and racially biased. Studies have shown that the software misidentifies people of color more often than white people, which Metro Times reported in cover story in July 2019.

"The bias of facial recognition is evident and documented," state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit, said at a news conference, The Detroit Free Press reports.

"This is a perfect example of why I call for defunding the police as we know it," Gay-Dagnogo said.

"I call for the abolishment of it as it unfairly targets and allows African Americans to be profiled," and "it's a waste of money."

State Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit, a retired lieutenant with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, said he supports a moratorium until problems with the software are worked out.

"Put this tool back in the tool box, until you work out the bugs," Carter said.

It’s not yet clear whether the Democrats can drum up enough support in the GOP-dominated House and Senate to ban the technology. Democrats said they are working with Republicans on the police reform bill.

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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