A woman in Detroit, MI, is suing the city after she claims a major mistake was made by faulty facial recognition, which led to her unlawful arrest.
According to CBS News, Porcha Woodruff states she was falsely arrested for carjacking and robbery due to a faulty facial recognition system used by the Detroit Police Department.
She was eight months pregnant at the time of her arrest.
Despite pleas from both herself and her fiancé, the six officers who appeared on her doorstep in the early morning of February 2023 still took Woodruff into custody.
Per the court documents, the victim of the carjacking incident in question told police that he was robbed at gunpoint for his car and some personal items after leaving a nearby BP gas station.
What’s more, Detroit Police Detective LaShauntia Oliver was assigned to the case and was able to obtain video footage from the night of the encounter at the gas station. She submitted a facial recognition request to identify a woman who later returned to the BP to give back the victim’s cell phone following the robbery. Per court records, Oliver stated that the facial recognition software had suggested Woodruff was a suspect.
The Faulty Technology
Although the victim did identify Woodruff in a photo lineup of six women, citing that she was with him at the time of the carjacking, he did not confirm that the woman he was with was pregnant. The 32-year-old Woodruff was ultimately arraigned on the carjacking and robbery charges with a personal bond of $100,000. She was told not to leave the state upon her release.
Per the lawsuit, Woodruff’s fiancé took her to the hospital immediately after leaving the Detroit Detention Center, where she was arraigned, because she was experiencing “stomach tightness, headaches, and whole-body pains.”
After the doctors confirmed that she was experiencing contractions and a low heart rate due to stress and dehydration, respectively, they discharged her that same day.
The Case Against Woodruff
The suit notes that the charges against Woodruff were ultimately dismissed due to insufficient evidence, but Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said the case was appropriate based on the facts and Woodruff was cleared because she never appeared in court.
“I have reviewed the allegations contained in the lawsuit,” Detroit Police Chief James White said in an official statement. “They are very concerning. We are taking this matter very seriously, but we cannot comment further at this time due to the need for additional investigation. We will provide further information once additional facts are obtained and we have a better understanding of the circumstances.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU), claims that this is the third allegation of a false arrest in Detroit due to faulty facial recognition technology.
It is calling for the Detroit Police Department to halt its use of the system.
“It’s deeply concerning that the Detroit Police Department knows the devastating consequences of using flawed facial recognition technology as the basis for someone’s arrest and continues to rely on it anyway,” Phil Mayor, a senior staff attorney at ACLU of Michigan, said. “As Ms. Woodruff’s horrifying experience illustrates, the Department’s use of this technology must end. Furthermore, the DPD continues to hide its abuses of this technology, forcing people whose rights have been violated to expose its wrongdoing case by case. DPD should not be permitted to avoid transparency and hide its own misconduct from public view at the same time it continues to subject Detroiters to dragnet surveillance.”
To date, the ACLU states the faulty facial recognition technology has led to six false arrests across the country, including Woodruff’s. All individuals were Black, with Woodruff being the first woman.