Detroit police chief 'appalled' by Rashida Tlaib's suggestion to only hire black facial recognition analysts

The congresswoman made the suggestion that the department should hire only back people as facial recognition analysts because "non-African Americans" think all black people look alike. 


                            Detroit police chief 'appalled' by Rashida Tlaib's suggestion to only hire black facial recognition analysts
Rashida Tlaib (Getty Images)

Detroit Police Chief James Craig, on Thursday, denounced Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib's suggestion that the department should hire only back people as facial recognition analysts because "non-African Americans" think all black people look alike. 

The Michigan Representative made the suggestion during a tour of the Detroit Police Department's Real-Time Crime Center on Monday. The department, at the center, uses facial recognition technology to locate suspects. Tlaib made the statement after Craig showed her how the software works, and how analysts use the technology to identify and locate suspects. Reports state that the department had extended an invitation for Tlaib to come and visit the center after she tweeted them, calling the technology "bull****."

Tlaib, after the visit, said: "Analysts need to be African-Americans, not people that are not. It's true, I think non-African-Americans think African-Americans all look the same!" The congresswoman made the statement citing instances where she witnessed people confuse Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md. The Michigan Democrat also claimed that "the error rate among African-Americans, especially women," was 60 percent.

Shorty after Tlaib's statement, Craig, while appearing on Fox & Friends: First, refuted the congresswoman's claims, saying: "It's a software. It's biometrics. And, to put race in it ... we're talking about trained professionals. My staff goes through intense training with the FBI, and so they're not looking at race but it's measurements. We were appalled when she made this statement."

"We even put her in the seat of an analyst so she could understand how it works!" Craig exclaimed. "And, she was somewhat resistant. Not really interested. But, it was important for me to invite her in after she made her initial comments. So, at least she could learn something about how we use it and maybe have a great appreciation for it."

Detroit Police Chief James Craig talks to reporters about a shooting outside of a barber shop where nine people were shot November 6, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Getty Images)

Reports state that when a reporter with The Detroit News followed up on Tlaib's claim, asking: "Are you saying white people are not qualified to--?" The congresswoman cut him off, saying: "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."

The Detroit police chief, however, objected to the congresswoman's statement, saying if he had made the same statement, he would have been asked to resign.

"This is a double standard," Craig said. "If I had made the exact same comment, they would've been calling for my resignation and she would have been leading that charge. That's a fact. We know [there are] flaws in the technology. We've addressed that through the rigorous system that we have in place. So, we have a modeled approach on how we use this technology very effectively," he said. 

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