Is it racist that Rep. Rashida Tlaib told Detroit Chief of Police James Craig that he should only hire black analysts to use facial recognition software because non-African-Americans think all African-Americans look alike? Chief Craig, who is himself African-American, is letting his opinion be known – if he made such a statement, people would be calling for his resignation.
An invitation was extended for Tlaib to tour Detroit’s Real Time Crime center, escorted by the police chief, after setting off a controversy in August about the police department’s use of facial recognition software. At the time, she fell in line with Bernie Sanders’ criminal justice plan that calls for a ban on the use of the software by police. Sanders pointed to “implicit biases that lead to unjust or excessive sentences” and in August, his spokesperson described the software technology as “Orwellian”.
“Police use of facial recognition software is the latest example of Orwellian technology that violates our privacy and civil liberties under the guise of public safety and it must stop,” Sarah Ford, a Bernie Sanders campaign spokesperson, told CNN Business on Monday.
@RashidaTlaib Before you criticize the software, come to our Real Time Crime Center to see how we @detroitpolice responsibly use it in efforts to identify criminals involved in violent crimes. Let’s set a date. https://t.co/aR7DOjQe2a
— Detroit Police Dept. (@detroitpolice) August 20, 2019
Tlaib took the tour Monday. The police chief spent an hour of his day escorting her though the center and showing her what goes on there.
The tour, which lasted more than an hour, was often tense, with Tlaib and Craig wrangling over how the department uses the software, privacy issues, and concerns that the technology misidentifies a disproportionate number of darker-skinned people. A major point of contention: whether only black civilians should work in the crime center analyzing photos flagged by the software.
“Analysts need to be African Americans, not people that are not,” Tlaib told Craig. “I think non-African Americans think African Americans all look the same.
Tlaib went on to justify her demand to the chief by using an example – she claims she has witnessed people confuse Rep. John Lewis and Rep. Elijah Cummings, both bald African-Americans.
Not only is Tlaib’s objection, as justified, racist in tone but it’s just silly. Confusing people with similiar physical attributes – like the two congressmen who are older, bald black men of similiar body type – as a reason to use racial discrimination in hiring practices is wrong-headed.
Police Chief Craig isn’t taking her human resources recommendation in stride. He said if he said such a thing, people would be calling for his resignation. (Imagine if a white conservative man made the statement that Tlaib made.) He’s right. Tlaib has a history of controversial remarks, though, and so far she has been sheltered. Speaker Pelosi is unwilling to stand up to Tlaib and The Squad. They are emboldened to act as if they are in charge. Tlaib, a Palestinian-American, not African-American, was telling the African-American police chief that white folks can’t tell black folks apart. The arrogance in her ignorance is breath-taking.
The chief spoke up on behalf of his department: “I trust people who are trained, regardless of race, regardless of gender.”
When questioned by a reporter, she expanded on her answer. It’s not just white people who get is all so very wrong, it’s Latinos, too.
After the tour, when a reporter asked whether she meant white people weren’t qualified to work in the crime center, Tlaib said: “No, I think there has actually been studies out that it’s hard for — African Americans would identify African Americans, or Latinos, same thing.”
Tlaib then was asked whether that means non-whites should be barred from working as crime analysts in mostly white communities. She replied: “Look it up.”
The congresswoman claims 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.”
Not only was there tension between Chief Craig and Tlaib during the tour, before the tour actually got underway, she questioned why she was being filmed by a reporter.
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?”
The point that Chief Craig tried to make to the congresswoman is that analysts use more than the facial recognition software in their work. They are trained professionals and the software is a tool in their toolbox. It’s an aid.
Bernie Sanders makes the argument that facial recognition software isn’t perfect and shouldn’t be used at all. The City of San Francisco is the first to ban the use of it in local government.
In May, San Francisco banned police and local government departments from using facial recognition technology — becoming the first city in the United States to do so. Somerville, Massachusetts, and Oakland, California, have also banned the use of such technology.
San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who introduced the city’s bill, told CNN Business earlier this year that the technology is “so fundamentally invasive” that it shouldn’t be used.
Tlaib posted a thread on Twitter explaining her racist comments weren’t really racist – the software is racist and she has “scholarly research” to back up her claim.
Tlaib shared the science behind her statement, and explained how/why she came to the conclusion — telling @wxyzdetroit that the real bias comes from the facial recognition program, itself. Catch her thread/info, here: https://t.co/QUzMtv09As
— Matthew Smith (@MattSmithWXYZ) October 3, 2019
A response to that thread mentions that Tlaib’s remarks could be a violation of the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act passed by the Michigan legislature in 1976. It addresses discrimination in hiring practices.
The police chief isn’t taking the criticism of his department lightly. He has been on cable television several times already that I have noticed. This is a can of worms that was opened in the name of identity politics. Politicians like Tlaib are so wrapped up in political ideologue that common sense goes out the window. She is quick to call out others for racism yet she sounds as though she is fine with a version of segregation in the workplace. We live in incredibly stupid times.