Detroit Man On '60 Minutes' After Flawed Facial Recognition Leads To Arrest

By Hannah DeRuyter

May 17, 2021

A Farmington Hills man was featured on Sunday night's (May 16) episode of CBS's 60 Minutes after being misidentified and arrested in January of 2020.

According to Deadline Detroit, 43-year-old Robert Williams was misidentified and arrested by Detroit Police last year. He was taken to a detention center, questioned, and shown surveillance video of a suspected thief that had stolen $3,800 worth of watches in 2018 from Shinola in Detroit.

The misidentification came from Detroit police using facial recognition software to try and find the correct suspect, but police arrested Williams instead.

On 60 Minutes, Williams told Anderson Cooper what happened while being questioned.

"So, he turns over the paper, and he's like, 'So, that's not you?' And I looked at it, picked it up, and held it up to my face, and I said, 'I hope y'all don't think all Black people look alike.'

Detroit Police Chief James Craig told Cooper that the facial recognition program is a helpful tool during investigations and has been used by the department since 2017. When talking about Williams' case, he said, "It was sloppy, sloppy investigative work," and detectives relied too much on the facial recognition without investigating further before issuing the arrest warrant.

According to Cooper, 243 possible suspects were identified after running the surveillance photo through the facial recognition software. Williams' photo ranked 9th and became an investigative lead.

Deadline Detroit reported that Williams sued the city of Detroit for wrongful arrest and imprisonment. The city told 60 Minutes it hopes to settle.

Craig said that more safety measures are in place now when requesting a warrant using facial recognition software. Police must now disclose to the prosecutor the use of facial recognition. Two analysts must evaluate the photo and then it needs to be approved by a supervisor as an investigative lead only.

Watch the full episode of 60 Minutes here.

Photo: Getty Images

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