Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., recently paid a visit to the Real Time Crime Center after the Detroit Police invited her to tour the facilities. Tlaib had criticized the center’s usage of facial recognition software in August, so the Detroit Police thought it prudent to demonstrate to her the way in which the software could be used to prevent crime.
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 20, 2019
Detroit Police Chief James Craig performed a demonstration with the software and introduced Tlaib to facial recognition analyst Andrew Rutebuka. The visit went awry when Tlaib told Craig, “Analysts need to be African American.” She continued, “Non-African Americans think African Americans all look the same.” She then proceeded to describe how people in the House of Representatives frequently confuse Reps. Elijah Cummings and John Lewis.
Rep. @RashidaTlaib said facial recognition techs need to be African-American because "non-African Americans" think all black people look alike.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) October 3, 2019
Craig calmly responded to Tlaib, saying, “I trust people who are trained regardless of race and regardless of gender. It is about the training.” The exchange was visibly awkward. Prior to that, Tlaib had interjected in Craig’s presentation, telling him that data had been presented in Congress indicating the software had a high error rate. She quipped, “See if you can get some of our money back until they fix it.”
When a reporter confronted her following her remarks, Tlaib defended them, saying studies had been performed indicating a person had a higher probability of correctly identifying a suspect if both that person and the suspect were the same race. The reporter shot back, asking if that meant non-white individuals should be prohibited from working in mostly white communities. Tlaib just responded, “Look it up.” Tlaib’s spokesperson provided a link to the study the following day.
The conversation, a full video of which can be found here, was recorded by reporter George Hunter from the Detroit News. Following Tlaib’s visit, the Detroit News followed up with Craig, who shared that Tlaib’s remarks angered many at the Real Time Crime Center.
“It’s insulting,” Craig said. “We have a diverse group of crime analysts, and what she said — that non-whites should not work in that capacity because they think all black people look alike — is a slap in the face to all the men and women in the crime center.”
Craig explained that all officers and civilian employees must complete implicit bias training, stating, “That’s something we train for, and it’s valuable training, but to say people should be barred from working somewhere because of their skin color? That’s racist.”