Facial recognition tool led to mistaken arrest, lawyer says

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana authorities’ use of facial recognition technology led to the mistaken identity arrest of a Georgia man on a fugitive warrant, a lawyer said in a case bringing renewed attention to racial disparities in the use of the digital tool.

Randall Reid, 28, was jailed in late November in DeKalb County, Ga., The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate informed.

His attorney, Tommy Calogero, said authorities mistakenly linked Reid to bag snatches in Jefferson Parish and Baton Rouge. Reid, arrested on November 25, was released on December 1.

Reid is black, and his arrest draws attention to the use of technology that critics say results in a higher rate of misidentification of people of color than white people.

“They told me that he had a warrant for his arrest in Jefferson Parish. I said, ‘What is Jefferson Parish?’” Reid said. “I have never been to Louisiana a day in my life. Then they told me it was for theft. So not only have I not been to Louisiana, but I haven’t stolen either.”

Calogero said Reid was falsely connected to the June theft of luxury handbags from a thrift store in Metairie, a New Orleans suburb in Jefferson Parish.

A detective with the Baton Rouge Police Department later adopted Reid’s identification from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office to secure an arrest warrant alleging that he was among three men involved in another luxury purse heist the same week, court records show, according to the newspaper.

The differences, such as a mole on Reid’s face, prompted the Jefferson sheriff to rescind the warrant, said Calogero, who estimated a 40-pound difference between Reid and the purse snatcher on surveillance footage.

Jefferson Sheriff Joe Lopinto’s office did not respond to multiple requests for information from The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate about Reid’s arrest and release, the agency’s use of facial recognition or any safeguards in this regard. .

The agency did not immediately respond to a request, emailed Monday by The Associated Press, for comment on the story and information on the use of the technology.

Reid’s case draws attention to the use of facial recognition tools in Louisiana and elsewhere.

Facial recognition systems have faced criticism because of their mass surveillance capabilities, which raise privacy concerns, and because some studies have shown that the technology is much more likely to misidentify black people and people of color than white people. , which has resulted in mistaken arrests.

New Orleans police say that facial recognition can only be used to generate leads and that officers must get approval from department officials before submitting a request through the Louisiana State Analytic and Fusion Exchange in Baton Rouge. Under the latest city rules, all possible matches must undergo a review by other facial recognition researchers.

Legislation to restrict the use of facial recognition statewide died in a 2021 legislative session.