What You Need To Know:
In 2019, Nijeer Parks got a phone call from his grandmother telling him police from 30 miles away in a town called Woodbridge were looking for him. Parks was arrested while attempting to clear his name and accused of aggravated assault, unlawful possession of weapons, using a fake ID, possession of marijuana, shoplifting, leaving the scene of a crime, resisting arrest, and almost hitting an officer with a car. He spent 11 days in jail and faced a prison sentence with additional time due to his prior convictions.
Here’s the problem: the police arrested the wrong man based on a facial recognition scan from a fake ID. Parks was 30 miles away at a Western Union sending money to his fiancé when the crimes were committed. New York City Police Department (NYPD) requires “other corroborating evidence” along with facial recognition as grounds for arrest, but all it took was a text from a NYPD officer with a single photo from facial recognition to arrest Parks. After a year, charges were dropped and Parks is now suing for his wrongful arrest that violated his civil rights and caused “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
Facial recognition has become more accurate, but research shows errors have occurred more often when matching the faces of darker skinned people. Federal regulations do not exist with this technology, thus allowing municipalities to control how it’s used as grounds for arrest. Virginia is the latest state banning facial recognition along with the cities of Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, and Boston.
“All you had to do was look at my ears and notice I don’t even have ear piercings…You proved to me that you can lock me up for anything, and there’s nothing I can do about it,” said Parks. “…People have a saying ‘all Black people look the same.’.. it looks nothing like my son,” said Park’s mother, Patricia, after seeing the suspect’s photo.
The suspect in question is still at large.
Why We Need to Know:
Lack of federal regulations, poor policing techniques, and lack of representation of Black people within technology has led to the arrests of innocent Black people. Their cases proved nothing more than the need for distinctions between “investigative tool” and “evidence”, and the fact that police STILL have a habit of misidentifying everything when it comes to Black people.