The plaintiff, identified as Porcha Woodruff, was arrested at her home on February 16 and charged with robbery and carjacking. The 32-year-old said she thought the officers who showed up at her home with a warrant for her arrest were initially joking.
“Ms. Woodruff later discovered that she was implicated as a suspect through a photo lineup shown to the victim of the robbery and carjacking, following an unreliable facial recognition match,” court documents stated.
The victim informed police that he was robbed and carjacked on January 29 after having sex with a woman that he met. The victim also said he and the woman went to a gas station before the incident, adding that she “interacted with several individuals” while at the establishment.
An armed man, who initially spoke to the woman while at the station, later carjacked and robbed the victim after they went to a different location. The victim also informed police that the woman left his phone at the gas station two days after the incident.
The detective who worked on the case was identified as LaShauntia Oliver. The lawsuit alleges that Oliver used facial technology to identify Woodruff as a suspect after she got to know the victim’s phone had been left at the gas station.
“Detective Oliver stated in detail in her report what she observed in the video footage, and there was no mention of the female suspect being pregnant,” the lawsuit states, adding that the detective did not show a male suspect Woodruff’s photo after he was arrested while driving the victim’s car, NBC News reported.
In the wake of the incident, the victim identified Woodruff as the woman in his company when he was shown a lineup of possible suspects. Oliver is also said to have used a 2015 photo of Woodruff for the lineup – though her current driver’s license was available.
The lawsuit also states that on the day the plaintiff was arrested, she and her fiancé told the officers to verify if the female suspect was pregnant. They, however, did not do that, per the lawsuit. Woodruff was ultimately taken into custody on robbery and carjacking charges before she was released on a $100,000 bond. She also had to receive medical attention after she suffered a low heart rate because of dehydration. The plaintiff was informed that contractions she had in the wake of the incident were a result of the stress she endured from the case.
The Wayne County Prosecutor‘s Office ultimately dropped the case against Woodruff on March 6, citing “insufficient evidence.” The office, however, said the warrant used to arrest Woodruff was “appropriate based upon the facts”, adding that the case was dropped because the victim did not show up during a preliminary hearing, NBC News reported.
As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, various studies have provided proof that facial recognition tools are often biased against minorities. 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.
“We are taking this matter very seriously, but we cannot comment further at this time due to the need for additional investigation,” Detroit Police Chief James E. White said in response to the lawsuit. “We will provide further information once additional facts are obtained and we have a better understanding of the circumstances.”