The lawyer of a Black man allegedly arrested and detained for crimes he did not commit said Louisiana authorities used facial recognition technology to wrongfully link him to the theft cases. As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, various studies have provided proof that facial recognition tools are often biased against minorities.
According to The Washington Post, 28-year-old Randall Reid was arrested and held in DeKalb County, Georgia, in late November. His lawyer, Tommy Calogero, said that authorities wrongfully arrested him in connection with purses that were stolen in Jefferson Parish and Baton Rouge. The Black man was arrested on November 26 and ultimately freed on December 1.
“They told me I had a warrant out of Jefferson Parish. I said, ‘What is Jefferson Parish?’” Reid said. “I have never been to Louisiana a day in my life. Then they told me it was for theft. So not only have I not been to Louisiana, I also don’t steal.”
Calogero said his client was wrongfully linked to luxury purse thefts that happened at a shop in Jefferson Parish in June. A detective with the Baton Rouge Police Department is said to have subsequently used the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office’s identification of Reid to obtain an arrest warrant that also claimed Reid was one of the suspects who stole a different luxury purse, court documents revealed, per The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.
Calogero said the Jefferson sheriff ultimately revoked the warrant because of disparities including a mole on his client’s face, The Washington Post reported. Calogero also added that surveillance footage showed there was roughly a 40-pound difference between Reid the suspect who stole the purse.
A 2019 study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that though facial recognition technology works relatively well on white men, it provides less accurate results for other demographics, and experts have blamed this on a lack of diversity in the images used to develop the databases.
New Orleans Police said that authorities can only use facial recognition technology to obtain leads, adding that officers must also seek approval from department officials before they submit a request with the Louisiana State Analytic and Fusion Exchange in Baton Rouge.
Statewide legislation to place restrictions on the use of facial recognition technology did not get the needed approval during a legislative session in 2021.