Louisiana police sued for wrongly arresting Black man using AI face recognition programme

A Black man is suing a Louisiana sheriff’s office for allegedly using facial identification software as the basis for a wrongful arrest that kept him in jail for days on theft charges, despite having never been to the state before.

In late 2022, Randal Quran Reid, 29, was driving to his mother’s house the day after Thanksgiving and was pulled over by a Georgia state trooper.

When he learned why, he was stunned.

The officer informed him he was being arrested in connection with a stolen credit card used to buy $8,000 worth of purses outside of New Orleans earlier that year.

Mr Reid said he had never even visited Louisiana before, let alone use a boosted credit card to buy luxury goods.

“I was confused and I was angry because I didn’t know what was going on,” he told The Associated Press. “They couldn’t give me any information outside of, ‘You’ve got to wait for Louisiana to come take you,’ and there was no timeline on that.”

“Every time I see police in my rearview mirror,” he added, “it just flashes back my mind to what could have happened even though I hadn’t done anything.”

Randal Quran Reid poses for a portait at his attorney's office, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, in Atlant (AP)
Randal Quran Reid poses for a portait at his attorney's office, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, in Atlant (AP)

After spending six days in jail and missing work, he was eventually released and the warrant against him was dropped, but now he’s suing the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department, claiming the agency’s faulty use of artificial-intelligence facial identification software wrongly put him behind bars.

The suit accuses Jefferson Parish officers, including a detective named Andrew Bartholomew, of using a face ID programme to match surveillance video in the case to a motor vehicle department photo of Mr Reid, a link they used as the basis for his arrest.

“Bartholomew did not conduct even a basic search into Mr. Reid, which would have revealed that Mr. Reid was in Georgia when the theft occurred,” the lawsuit reads.

The sheriff’s office has said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

In court filings, police said a credible human source helped identify Mr Reid as a suspect.

Mr Reid is one of many people around the country, disproportionately Black, who have been targets of wrongful arrests based on police facial identification software.

As The Independent reported, in February, the Detroit police department wrongfully arrested an eight-month pregnant mother of two for a suspected carjacking and robbery.

“I’m like, ‘What,?’ I opened my door so he could see my stomach. ‘I’m eight months pregnant. You can see two vehicles in the driveway. Why would I carjack?’” she told The Independent. “‘You’ve gotta be wrong. You can’t have the right person.’”

She was put in handcuffs and taken to jail, where she had panic attacks and early contractions.

“I definitely believe that situation would’ve gone differently had it been another race, honestly, just my opinion. There was no remorse shown to me and I was pregnant. I pleaded,” she told The Independent.

At least six people around the US have been falsely arrested using facial ID technology. All of them are Black.

These misfires haven’t stopped the technology from proliferating across the country. At least half of federal law enforcement agencies with officers and a quarter of state and local agencies are using it.

“We have no idea how often facial recognition is getting it wrong,” Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP), told The Independent.

“When you have facial recognition being used thousands of times, without any accountability for mistakes, it’s inviting injustice,” he added.