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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Man mistaken for shoplifter through technology sues Detroit

Man mistaken for shoplifter through technology sues Detroit
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A Black man who was arrested when facial recognition technology mistakenly identified him as a suspected shoplifter sued Detroit police Tuesday, seeking compensation for the humiliating incident and restrictions on how the city uses the tool.

“I came home from work and was arrested in my driveway in front of my wife and daughters, who watched in tears, because a computer made an error,” Robert Williams of Farmington Hills said. “This never should have happened, and I want to make sure that this painful experience never happens to anyone else.”

The Associated Press reported on Williams’ arrest last year. He said his Michigan driver license photo was flagged as a likely match to a shoplifting suspect. Investigators had scanned grainy surveillance camera footage of a 2018 theft inside a Shinola watch store in midtown Detroit.

Detroit detectives showed a photo lineup to a Shinola employee, who positively identified Williams.

Williams spent 30 hours in an overcrowded detention center. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy subsequently dropped the case and apologized.

Detroit city attorney Lawrence Garcia said there was misconduct at the police department.

“The Law Department will seek to achieve resolution of Mr. Williams’ claims on terms that are fair to him and the city,” Garcia said.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the University of Michigan law school’s Civil Rights Litigation Initiative.

“The technology is racially biased, flawed, and easily leads to false arrests of innocent people, just like our client,” said student-attorney Jeremy Shur.

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