A Black man in New Jersey has filed a lawsuit against police and county prosecutors after a misidentification by facial recognition technology resulted in him being jailed for 10 days.
According to NBC News, 33-year-old Nijer Parks went to Woodbridge police headquarters on Feb. 5 after finding out from his grandmother that a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was accused of shoplifting from a hotel gift shop in Woodbridge and clipping a police car with his vehicle. The problem was Parks, a native of Paterson, N.J., had never been to Woodbridge, didn’t have a car and had never gotten his license.
“Plaintiff also gave ... a solid alibi that proved he could not have done what he was suspected of doing,” Daniel Sexton, Parks’ attorney, wrote in the lawsuit.
Despite providing this information to police, Parks claims that he spent 10 days in jail and that the police didn’t take fingerprints or do any DNA testing that could’ve cleared him. Instead, the suit alleges that their investigation relied entirely on facial recognition technology.
“Defendant police department was relying solely on the faulty and illegal [facial recognition software] or some analogous program while all evidence and forensics confirmed the plaintiff had no relationship to the suspect for the crimes,” the suit states.
The usage of facial recognition technology by law enforcement has been under steady controversy and not simply because it’s some creepy-ass, Minority Report-ass, flat-out weird-ass shit. It’s also mad racist. Studies have shown that Black people were 100 times more likely to be misidentified by this type of technology than their white counterparts.
Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff lawyer for the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, released a statement on Tuesday calling Parks’ arrest the result of “flawed and privacy-invading surveillance technology,” adding that “this technology disproportionately harms the Black community.”
The charges against Parks were dropped according to his attorney. The suit names county prosecutors, the Woodbridge Police Department, and the mayor as defendants. A spokesperson for Woodbridge told NBC News that the township has not yet been served with the suit and declined to comment.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time an incident like this has happened. In Detroit, two Black men were arrested, with one facing a felony charge, after facial recognition misidentified them. It’s almost like the police shouldn’t be using technology that is clearly not capable of doing the job they’re asking it to do.
While there are no federal laws regarding facial recognition technology yet, cities across the country have taken steps to ban or greatly limit the use of the technology by law enforcement.