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ACLU wants trial to prove police agency was wrong in biometrics-based arrest

ACLU wants trial to prove police agency was wrong in biometrics-based arrest

A Black man in the U.S. arrested for shoplifting based solely on facial recognition algorithms is getting help in his defense from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU has filed a supporting brief in the wrongful imprisonment case of Nijeer Parks, accused in January 2019 of an alleged shoplifting crime in New Jersey. Parks is suing the government agencies involved in his arrest as well as biometrics manufacturer Idemia.

The defendants have asked for summary judgment, which the rights organization wants denied to fully air the matter in court.

In processing the incident, police allegedly used an obscured picture from a fake ID presented at the scene by a suspect who fled. They also are reported to have ignored fingerprints and DNA gathered at the scene that allegedly do not match Parks.

According to the ACLU, that image was transmitted to the Regional Operations Intelligence Center, which scanned it with facial recognition software.

Center investigators reportedly told police in New Jersey that Parks was a “possible hit.” The ACLU says the police applied for an arrest warrant based on this hit and did not disclose the tenuous nature of the evidence.

The investigating law enforcement agency, Woodbridge Police, allegedly did not train officers in any aspect of using facial recognition services.

Parks was held in jail cell for 10 days, the ACLU says.

Beyond the procedural events contested by the organization, “Parks’s photo was derived from an FRT algorithm designed to identify faces similar to the suspect’s image, but he was not in fact a match to the suspect.”

A decision on the motion originally was due earlier this month. Court documents do not explain the delay.

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