Published on: Sunday, May 2, 2021

New Jersey police arrested an innocent man on unlawful possession of a weapon, resisting arrest and aggravated assault charges after he was falsely identified by facial recognition technology (article available here). 

Police responded to reports of a theft at a Hampton Inn in Woodbridge, New Jersey. The suspect drove away, hitting a police car and, police claim, almost running over an officer. Using cutting-edge facial recognition technology, police quickly arrested Nijeer Parks, a 31-year-old Black man. At the time the crimes were being committed at the Hampton Inn in January 2019, Parks was 30 miles away in a Western Union.

He spent 10 days in jail and paid thousands of dollars in legal fees. Parks considered a plea deal even though he was innocent, so he wouldn't run the risk of getting a long prison sentence. The case was eventually dismissed.

Parks is now suing police and the city of Woodbridge, New Jersey for a violation of his civil rights, false imprisonment and false arrest.

A federal study from 2019 found widespread evidence of racial bias in nearly 200 facial recognition algorithms that were far more likely to misidentify people of color than they were white people.