Innocent Man Wrongly Jailed by Facial Recognition Tech: His Lawsuit Joins Others Led by Black Plaintiffs

Innocent Man Wrongly Jailed by Facial Recognition Tech: His Lawsuit Joins Others Led by Black Plaintiffs
Innocent Man Wrongly Jailed by Facial Recognition Tech: His Lawsuit Joins Others Led by Black Plaintiffs | image credit to Google

Russell Quran The day after Thanksgiving in 2017, as Reid was on his route to his mother’s house, police stopped him and arrested him by the side of a major Georgia motorway.

Before they took him to jail, they informed him that he was sought in Louisiana for crimes. Reid, who likes to go by the Quran, would spend the following few days imprisoned as he tried to understand how he could be a suspect in a state he claims he had never been to.

This month, a complaint was filed accusing a sheriff’s detective in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, of abusing face recognition technology.

Quran told The Associated Press, “I was bewildered and I was upset because I didn’t know what was happening. They were only able to say, “You have to wait for Louisiana to come take you,” and there was no timetable for that.

Quran, 29, is one of at least five Black litigants who have brought legal claims against law authorities in recent years, claiming they were unlawfully detained after being mistakenly recognized by face recognition technology. Three of the claims, including one brought by a woman suspected of carjacking while eight months pregnant, are filed against the Detroit police.

Government databases or social media can be searched for potential matches using software that receives video surveillance picture feeds from law enforcement authorities.

The rate of misidentification of persons of color compared to white individuals, according to critics, is greater. Supporters claim it has proved crucial in apprehending drug traffickers, resolving murder and missing person cases, and finding and rescuing victims of human trafficking. They further assert that criminal mugshots, not license photographs or chance portraits of people, make up the great bulk of the images searched.

However, several towns and governments have restricted its usage.

Sam Starks, a senior attorney with The Cochran Firm in Atlanta, who is representing Quran, said “Even with standards and protocols in place, there are serious privacy and civil liberties problems with this technology’s usage by law enforcement.” And that’s without even mentioning the technology’s dependability.

The Quran complaint was submitted on September 8 to an Atlanta federal court. Detective Andrew Bartholomew and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joseph Lopinto are named as defendants.

To get an arrest warrant for Reid after a stolen credit card was used to purchase two handbags for more than $8,000 from a secondhand shop outside of New Orleans in June 2022, Bartholomew utilized surveillance video and entirely relied on a match produced by facial recognition technology, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint claimed that Bartholomew failed to perform even a simple search on Mr. Reid, which would have shown that he was in Georgia at the time of the crime.

Bartholomew declined to respond when he was contacted by phone. Capt. Jason Rivarde, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, stated that the agency declines to comment on ongoing legal matters.

According to Quran’s lawsuit, Bartholomew did not disclose using face recognition technology while using still images from the CCTV footage in an affidavit to get the order.

The investigator claimed to have received information from a “credible source” that the Quran was one of the suspects in the video. According to Bartholomew, Quran’s image from the Department of Motor Vehicles looked to fit the suspect’s description from the security footage.

Starks thinks Bartholomew’s source was face recognition software, which makes the affidavit “at best misleading,” in his words. Starks cites more proof of such in an email sent to the sheriff in January by Jefferson Parish Deputy Chief Dax Russo.

According to the complaint, the email outlining the circumstances that resulted in Quran’s arrest said that officers needed more information or leads before utilizing facial recognition technology to get an arrest warrant.

Bartholomew is charged with negligent behavior, malicious prosecution, and false arrest in the lawsuit. The complaint claims that Lopinto ought to be held accountable as well since he neglected to put in place sufficient regulations regarding the usage of face recognition software. It demands unnamed damages.

As the Quran languished in jail, his family hired a Louisiana lawyer who then showed the sheriff’s office pictures and videos of the Quran. According to his claim, the individual on the security video was significantly bulkier and did not have a mole as the Quran had.

The sheriff’s office requested that the judge revoke the warrant. Quran was freed by DeKalb County sheriff’s officers in Georgia six days after his arrest.

He said that the food in the jail had made him ill and that his automobile had been impounded. Quran, who works in logistics for transportation, was absent as well.

The incident is still fresh in his mind even a year later. He ponders what would have occurred if he hadn’t had the funds to engage a lawyer. And he continues to reflect on that interstate police stop in Georgia.

He said, “Even though I hadn’t done anything, every time I see officers in my rearview mirror, it simply flashes back my thoughts to what may have happened.


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