Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) made a racially stereotypical outburst while arguing for an all-black facial recognition team in the city of Detroit on Monday.
“Analysts need to be African Americans, not people that are not,” Tlaib said. “I think non-African Americans think African Americans all look the same. ”
“I’ve seen it even on the House floor: People calling Elijah Cummings ‘John Lewis,’ and John Lewis ‘Elijah Cummings,’ and they’re totally different people,” Tlaib added, referencing the black Democratic Congressional leaders. “I see it all the time, and I love them because they go along with it.”
Tlaib was invited into Public Safety Headquarters to view how facial recognition software was being developed by the Detroit police after she had made profane comments about the system on her Twitter account.
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 20, 2019
.@detroitpolice I'm in.
I would ask that you please review the 2 @OversightDems hearings (Part I & II: https://t.co/VhCYvPajXe ) on facial recognition & see the indisputable data that it's flawed. Residents are very concerned. I can share what I've found during the visit. https://t.co/M2ax88LGyF
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 20, 2019
Tlaib was defiant during her tour of the facility, hassling Detroit police chief James Craig for his use of facial recognition software to keep criminals off the streets in one of America’s most violent and desolate cities.
“Even my Republican colleagues were very concerned about facial recognition, because all this information in databases offers no protections for our residents,” Tlaib said to Craig.
“We don’t disagree with the concerns,” Craig said. “If you’d be patient with me and let me go through this.”
Tlaib cut Craig off before he could fully explain the process of how the facial recognition technology works.
“We know it’s close to a 60% error rate because it doesn’t identify black people; you know that, Chief. Chief, the error rate among African Americans, especially women, 60%,” Tlaib said.
“I understand the technology,” Craig said. “That’s why I’m taking you through it personally.”
“I know,” Tlaib said. “Just see if you can get some of our money back before we fix it.”
“No,” Craig replied.
21-year-old Davevion Dawson, who is suspected of felonious assault and possessing illegal weapons, was used presented as an example of the technology being effective. Crime analysis supervisor Andrew Rutebuka was able match him with an old police mugshot.
“That’s him,” Rutebuka said.
Tlaib was not convinced. “How do you know? You can’t say it’s him; it’s allegedly him. That’s the lawyer talk in me. It’s his life we’re talking about,” she said.
“Let me stop you right there,” Craig responded. “It’s his life, but guess who else’s life? The victim’s. We never talk about the victims. What about that victim’s rights? What about the family of the victim? What about their justice?”
“Do you guys have witnesses as well?” Tlaib asked.
“Yes,” Craig said.
“The warrant wasn’t issued solely based on this, was it?” Tlaib snapped back.
Craig lamented. “No, it wasn’t,” he said. “Work with me. Work with me.”
Tlaib’s spokesman Denzel McCampbell defended Tlaib’s divisive remarks after the fact, claiming there is science that backs up her assertion.
“The studies (Tlaib mentioned are) related to cross-race effect or other-race effect,” McCampbell said in an email, referencing a study conducted by psychology professors at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. “This has shown that individuals are less accurate when identifying people from a race other than their own.”
“Detroit has a black population of more than 80%, so that is where her basis came from and what she was trying to convey when it comes to accurate identification,” McCampbell added.
Craig does not buy the explanation and believes Tlaib’s comments were offensive and bigoted.
“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.”
He maintains that all his officers are trained to combat bias, but the idea that segregation should be implemented is completely out-of-bounds.
“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,” Craig said.
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