Duggan says arresting officers involved in Robert Williams' case under review | Michigan Radio
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Duggan says arresting officers involved in Robert Williams' case under review

Jun 25, 2020

Credit City of Detroit

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said on Thursday that the Detroit Police Department and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office will be reviewing the events that led to the arrest of Robert Williams.

In January, Williams was arrested and held for more than a day on charges of larceny, despite the police only having a facial recognition technology match with an old driver's license photo. That match turned out to be false.

When asked about the case, Duggan said, “I’m very angry about that case, and join Prosecutor (Kym) Worthy in my apology to Mr. Williams. But you have to think of the case, and the case, in my mind, is about subpar detective work, and subpar warrant prosecutor work.”

Duggan said that the protocols that Detroit law enforcement has in place now would prevent a similar situation from happening again.

When asked if the officers who arrested Williams and the person who issued the arrest warrant should have been fired or disciplined, Duggan said, "They're going to look at that now.”

“I know Chief Craig does not feel good about the professionalism of that initial detective work, I’ve talked to prosecutor Worthy and she does not feel good about the initial review that they did; both have revised policies,” he said.

Phil Mayor of the ACLU issued the following statement in response to Duggan’s remarks:

“Mayor Duggan has failed to order any of Mr. Robert Williams’ asks, after his wrongful identification and arrest, which are: stopping the use of facial recognition technology in Detroit; releasing all of the files related to his wrongful arrest and detention, as he has been requesting for six months now; immediately expunging his record, mugshot, and DNA, which remain on file; and having the Wayne County prosecutor’s office publicly commit to not prosecuting Mr. Williams for the alleged crime again.  

Following our complaint against the Detroit Police Department, the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners voted to demand a thorough investigation report from the DPD. If the Detroit Mayor and all city leaders are truly committed to ending systemic racism, then they can start with ending the use of this racist surveillance program.   

As Mr. Williams has said before, ‘Why is law enforcement even allowed to use such technology when it obviously doesn’t work? I get angry when I hear companies, politicians and police talk about how this technology isn’t dangerous or flawed. What’s worse is that, before this happened to me, I actually believed them. I thought, what’s so terrible if they’re not invading our privacy and all they’re doing is using this technology to narrow in on a group of suspects?’ 

Facial recognition is a threat to people’s privacy, and it is especially a danger to Black and Brown people who data show are 10 to 100 times more likely to be wrongly accused and identified as we saw in Mr. William’s case. The DPD has spent more than $1 million for their Dataworks contract in 2017. Now they are being asked to spend more than $200,000 on renewing their contract. We must divest from this racially biased and dangerous technology and invest in our Black and Brown communities in Detroit.”