Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib told Detroit’s chief of police that he should hire only black people as analysts to run their facial recognition software because, she claimed, non-black people think they all look alike.
The suggestion came Monday as Chief James Craig gave Tlaib a tour of the Real Time Crime Center, where the department uses facial recognition technology to find suspects. Craig was showing Tlaib how the software works, and how analysts use it to identify and locate individuals. But the tour quickly turned contentious as the freshman Michigan congresswoman made repeated requests that were shot down by the chief.
“Analysts need to be African-Americans, not people that are not,” Tlaib said. “It’s true, I think non-African-Americans think African-Americans all look the same!” She said she has witnessed people confuse Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who both are black and bald.
Craig, who is black, did not go for Tlaib’s suggestion.
“I trust people who are trained, regardless of race, regardless of gender,” he responded.
This came after Tlaib claimed that “the error rate among African-Americans, especially women,” was 60 percent.
“I understand the technology real well,” Craig said. He showed Tlaib how his analysts examine the software’s results before making determinations.
“See if you can get some of our money back until they fix it,” Tlaib said, to which Craig simply replied, “No.”
When asked if defendants were prosecuted solely based on facial recognition results, Craig said they were not.
The tour, which was recorded and then posted by a reporter with The Detroit News, got off to a rocky start when Tlaib asked the reporter, “Are you facial recognizing me right now? I’m sorry who are you and why are you videotaping me?”
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Afterward, the Detroit News reporter followed up on Tlaib’s assertion that only black people should be hired to use the facial recognition software.
“Are you saying white people are not qualified to --,” he said, before Tlaib cut him off.
“No, I think there’s actually been studies out that it’s hard for, you know, like African-Americans would identify African-Americans, similar, Latino same thing,” she said.
When asked if that would mean African-Americans should not be allowed to identify white people, Tlaib said, “Look it up,” and walked away.
The Detroit Police Department extended the invitation to Tlaib in August, after she described facial recognition technology as “bulls---.”
Craig made headlines in 2015 after he said more citizens should be armed. While in the past he supported increased restrictions on weapons and ammunition, his position changed after visiting Maine and Los Angeles, where permits for carrying concealed weapons are easier to acquire.
“I changed my orientation real quick,” Craig said. “Maine is one of the safest places in America. Clearly, suspects knew that good Americans were armed.”