Perhaps facial recognition isn't the issue
If your police officers arrest an 8 month pregnant woman for car jacking and don't think there is anything questionable about that....
Early one February morning this year, six Detroit police officers brought an arrest warrant to the home of Porcha Woodruff. A 32-year-old mother of two, she was eight-months pregnant with a third. The police claimed she had been involved in a robbery and carjacking reported 18 days earlier. Woodruff later learned she had been …
I have had several interactions with the police in the UK, and while there are two refusals to investigate (non-violent domestic abuse, and yobs throwing things at people that did not hit them) and maybe one other minor incident I am not happy about, the others (traffic, racist vandalism, domestic violence allegations) have been dealt with pretty professionally and about as well as I can expect.
This over a period of time from the late 70s, about half of which I have lived in the UK. The most recent four interactions have been in the last five years.
The police are definitely not always good, but a blanket statement that they cannot be trusted are ridiculous.
"Trust" does not mean what you apparently think it means.
If a small percentage of police officers are crooked, or incompetent, or insane, or possibly some combination of all three, then it becomes foolish to trust any police officer (and that counts double if you are female, or from an ethnic minority, or disabled, or...). Which places a responsibility on any individual police officer to demonstrate *very* early on in any interaction with the public that they are both trustworthy and competent. And I'm afraid to say, over the course of my life, I have not yet met one single police officer in an official capacity who understands this.
The problem here is, any given online discussion of "the police" is likely to be about american police. Because Americans don't understand the idea that the USA isn't the entire world, they assume that all police are the same as their own and react accordingly.
Our police have problems, to be sure, but they have different problems to American police. Generally speaking, police here are quite friendly, but liable to be incredibly thick and boneheaded, especially in the met (unofficial policy discourages recruitment of officers with too much intelligence, as they might think for themselves). I wouldn't trust them as far as I could throw them, but for completely different reasons than I wouldn't trust American police - reasons that can usually be negotiated around, as long as you're willing to play their games. It's not like you're going to get shot of you end up on their bad side, after all.
Not the example I'd use. I have it from an ex-Met officer that a culture is deliberately fostered to drive out the handful of remaining coppers who aren't bigots on a power trip. The whole force is corrupt from top to bottom and cannot be saved at this point. If they're being friendly to you, it's only because it suits their goals to be so.
"The problem here is, any given online discussion of "the police" is likely to be about american police."
We are in a discussion chat regarding a story about American policing, so yeah, it is reasonable to believe that when "the police" are mentioned here, it will indeed be regarding the American version.
The problem with American police is that they are quite fundamentally operationally different that UK police. For one, all police in the U.S. are armed, which is not the case in the UK. This has led to the UK police constructing different methods of community interaction, and fundamentally lowering the tension of said interactions.
In the United States, besides carrying weapons, many of our police forces actively recruit ex-military members. They are trained with a "warrior" mentality and, indeed, when "Defund the police" was talked about several police unions actively rallied against police reform and openly stated that they believe in the 'warrior mentality' training
U.S. police forces are often, quite intentionally, trained in an 'Us vs Them" mentality and trained to actively 'assert dominance' - take control - of the situation; rather than seeking a de-escalation of the situation, they are often trained to simply use force to overpower the 'resistance' in the situation until they can assert their dominance...and THEN, maybe, take the time to figure out all the specifics of the situation.
The training of U.S. vs UK police is fundamentally different, one seeks community interaction whilst the other intentionally demotes community interaction in the cause of strength of appearances and actions. And the U.S. suffers for this.
I also do not live in America. Our police are very similar in behaviour to American police, and they clearly want to increase that resemblance through lobbying and political action.
It's not just America. It's police (and politicians with power) in general that are the issue.
The problem is, your country isn't like America, so you think no-where is.
I think that it will be different depending on whether you are a victim or a suspect, although even if you are a victim, the police can be unpleasant (rape cases, or where the police think that a victim is also a suspect).
But generally, if someone is a suspect, they won't get very good treatment, even in the more civilized countries.
I have only a few interactions with the police. One was after I ran a car up a bank and turned it over on an icy and rather hilly road one Christmas. When the police turned up, they were obnoxious and quite rude, expecting that I was drunk. Right up until the breathalyzer literally said "ZERO" as my blood alcohol level. They suddenly became much more polite after that.
There are plenty of video essays knocking about where ex-policemen tell people to not volunteer information to the police, for fear that they may be deemed involved in a crime. The general comment is that police forces are not necessarily interested in justice, just getting a conviction, as that is what they are often measured on.
In a lot of cases, it can be far safer to NOT trust the police by default, If you're a minority would definitely be one of those cases. Sure, not all cops are bad, but how can anyone tell the difference? Especially when we constantly hear about the "good" ones not arresting the bad ones, even when they know their colleagues are not acting within the law. They don't even police themselves.
"In a lot of cases, it can be far safer to NOT trust the police by default, If you're a minority would definitely be one of those cases."
So parents should teach their kids to run from and lie to police officers?
Cops develop a highly sensitive BS detector so lying to them is not a good tactic. It just as bad as running from a predator. Prey runs, predator chases.
I'm not saying that one should trust the police, but there are ways to go about that non-trust that aren't going to cause big problems. You should give your legal name and produce ID if asked. You don't have to answer questions about where you've been and what you've been doing. In the US, you don't have to allow an officer to search your car on a traffic stop. If they want to bring a dog they can do that if it won't take long. 20 minutes has been held by the US Supreme Court to be too long. It's not like they'd find anything in my car so I'm willing to call their bluff as I don't find it proper for them to do the search. If it was, they'd be able to get a warrant.
Be polite, be courteous, be respectful since none of that costs anything and is often all that's needed to be back on your way in less time than if you are being a dick and they police trying to figure out if they do need to pay you more attention. Notice I didn't say "be a doormat" and roll over, sit up and beg.
It's probably not intentionally racist but anybody who has photographed faces will know it is more challenging to get good definition of dark faces and in low light next to impossible.Plus the greater contrast with the background may confound auto-exposure probably calibrated for paler faces. Hence the rate of false positives is going to be much greater. Question is whether that is accounted for in the matching algorithm. I suspect not.
whereas intent is a matter of philosophy. If the people making & using the SW fail to account for bias in the algos and inputs, maybe that qualifies ? Refuse to process low light scans as a matter of policy and softrware input data cleaning ?
The software should asses it's probable accuracy and refuse to ID below a certain level.
And clearly instruct the cops to exercise judgement instead of relying on the results.
But then Data Works would have to be honest in their sales pitch, and liability.
And the evidence goes further, m'lud. The defendant was identified from the CCTV images using a facial recognition algorithm.
A facial recognition algorithm?
Yes, m'lud. It's the practical application of an electronic system for rapidly scanning a collection of photographs of known offenders in order to identify a probable suspect.
Is it now? How fascinating. Amazing what they can do nowadays. Please, continue...
Thank you, m'lud. After being picked up by the police officers the defendant was found to be in possession of a deluxe model inflatable companion, whatever that is.
The deluxe model is the one with the genuine hair and realistic skin-feel.
Automatically paying out say 100,000 USD to anyone falsely arrested as a result of incorrect facial recondition or through any AI augmented process, would also help particularly if those who took the false result and ran with it (ie. The officer who ran the check and handed over the “match”, through to the team who went to court, the judge and the arresting officers) contribute 60 percent…
"They're going to have a certain amount of difficulty with not being black, though."
It's more than skin color. If they go about on a summer day in a hoodie with their pants at half-mast, all tatted up and wearing "colors", that is going to attract the attention of police. Stereotypes are often a very good first order approximation. The above description is good for a lot of people of a certain ethnicity in my town. The ones I know, one being a damn good guitar player, don't dress like that, don't use the N word in every sentence and work in good professions. That guitar player is an aircraft mechanic working on F-22's. His kids were raised right too. Both of them graduated college with real degrees.
Dumb cops don't understand its limitations, and think "hey my iPhone recognizes me perfectly so clearly it is a highly accurate technology". If they had one specific suspect, or a handful of specific suspects, to match to a high quality image of the criminal then yeah it'll work. Saying you are you when unlocking your phone is very easy compared to what police are trying to use it for. Used to trawl through countless thousands of mugshots or driver's license ID photos hoping to match to an image of the criminal (especially if it is of lower quality like in this case) makes it about as accurate as hiring a psychic who says the criminal's initials are "A.F." and putting people with those initials in your lineup!
The dumb cops don't even understand the limitations of lineups, having arrested her based on someone picking her photo out of a lineup (an eight year old photo but that's a separate issue of stupidity on their part) If you present photos with the tacit assumption that the real criminal is or is highly likely to be found in the set of photos the witness will feel forced to pick one. But they don't match on the face, since most people don't remember faces they only saw for a moment very well, it is just a gut feeling and once they get they do like they are told countless times throughout their life and "go with their gut". They might recall (perhaps not even consciously) that the criminal was wearing a light blue shirt, and choose a lineup photo because that person happened to be wearing a light blue shirt the day they got their driver's license renewed!
Of course there's no way we'll see any national legislation on this, because republicans like having black people harassed by police. That's being "tough on crime" in their books, so they'd filibuster it. If some wrong people are arrested that's better in their mind than the chance that taking away "tools" like facial recognition means a few real criminals remain on the loose. But legislators in the state of Michigan could at least fix the problem there.
"Dumb cops don't understand its limitations"
It would be interesting to see how the Detroit police's training budget compares with other forces and whether some extra money could be found for it, say from the facial recognition spending.
From the Detroit city website: "James E. White was appointed Chief of the Detroit Police Department on June 1, 2021 and confirmed by Detroit City Council on September 21, 2021. Prior to his appointment, he was selected by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights Commission to lead the Department of Civil Rights." On the face of it they did what they could to get the right person into the job, civil rights being an intrinsic part of police work.
That begs the questions, How long does it take an average plod to transition from assessing the scene in front of them to merely following the procedure regardless of the blindingly obvious? and what can be done about it?
I think you've identified an important part of the problem here. Because police cockups are so prominent in the news these days, that translates directly to a reluctance on the part of individual officers to, y'know, take responsibility for anything. Give them an option to just blindly follow a procedure, and they'll take it.
It's human nature, once the pressure to Not Screw Up reaches a certain level. Happens in all jobs, sometimes. Above all, if you follow the rules exactly, you can't be to blame for what happens, can you? How many of us can truly say we've never abused that rule?
And sadly, the common response is to try to write "better" (i.e. more precise, exhaustive, detailed) rules, and double down on following them. Forgetting that these are people, not computers - they don't respond well to micromanagement.
What makes people think that it's the technology to blame? People are not perfect at recognizing people. Some people are better at it, but everybody is just as bad as "facial recognition" is at recognizing faces that they haven't been trained on. AKA "they all look the same to me"
The problem here is that what the police do is "lock people up". That's the police job. That's what they are trained to do. That's all they are trained to do. It's a blue-collar job: they aren't lawyers or social workers: they arrest people.
When the police get an identification for a "violent" crime, they arrest the person and lock them up. "Justice" comes later, if at all.
They are not supposed to arrest random people, though. It's still a gross oversimplification, but the police job would be to "lock up" identified suspects. Given that a human can easily distinguish between a non-pregnant woman and an 8 months pregnant woman, they failed miserably at the "identification" part.
"Given that a human can easily distinguish between a non-pregnant woman and an 8 months pregnant woman, they failed miserably at the "identification" part."
My thought was that a victim of a car jacking would notice that a woman was eight months gone before most anything else and would have told the police this trivial bit of information. It would have narrowed down their search considerably.
Facial recognition is a tool just like a hammer. You can drive a nail with a hammer, but you can also whack your thumb with it as well so it isn't perfect. (I always blame the hammer). Doctors run tests on you and take all of the information to not only make a diagnosis, but rule things out as well. You may have one symptom of plague, but that won't be the conclusion of the doctor unless plenty of other indicators point in that direction. A tool can be useful, but only in as far as its limitations are taken into consideration.
"The problem here is that what the police do is "lock people up". That's the police job. That's what they are trained to do. That's all they are trained to do. It's a blue-collar job: they aren't lawyers or social workers: they arrest people."
You're betraying your ignorance about actual police work here. Police officers arrest relatively few people. In Detroit specifically, there are about 10,000 arrests per annum, and about 2,000 police officers. That means the nominal average office is making an arrest every 2-3 months. It is just not the case that police work is a conveyer belt of arresting people, throwing them into custody, and then heading back out to arrest more people - whether you think that is a good thing or not.
"about 10,000 arrests per annum, and about 2,000 police officers. That means the nominal average office is making an arrest every 2-3 months."
That's assuming 1 officer per arrest. In this case they must have thought it was an extremely dangerous suspect since 6 cops turned up to arrest her, and apparently none of the 6 was smart or brave* enough to say "hold on a second here...."
*Unfortunately macho culture and Hollywood movies identify bravery solely as physical bravery in the face of physical danger. Moral bravery, which is what would be required in this context, is far more important.
"lock people up". That's the police job
no it isn't, where did you get that one from ? The police's job is to keep law and order. If some people disrupt that law and order, then the job of the police is to identify those people and stop them from disrupting law and order, for which they might need to arrest them. But the police can't simply arrest a random person based on bogus information and then try to figure out whether they got the correct guy. That would be like "shoot first and ask questions later "
And yet here we are, discussing a case where the police simply locked someone up.
The argument seems to be that it wasn't what they were trained to do, and isn't what police do.
That's the argument always advanced by management: the police officer "on the ground" has to make a decision, and can't be second-guessed by the commentators.
Conveniently, that's the argument that says nothing was management's fault.
Don't look at supervision, training and officer selection, because "only the officer is there on the spot".
I've made the assertion that It's not the technology. That's put me in the position of "blaming the police", which has attracted a lot of downvotes. But the research on human identification is clear. And on "eyewitness testimony" of all kinds. And consequently the police make false identifications all the time, which are widely experienced and frequently documented.
Automated "Facial Recognition" systems attract litigation in the USA because of the nature of the society and it's legal system. This particular case included a step where a person was "recognized" by a person from a photograph. It's not the technology. It's the selection, training, and supervision of police officers that failed. A management failure.
But it /is/ the technology. One of the most profitable web companies on the planet doesn't have an algorithm that can distinguish between a very dark skinned human, and a normal gorilla.
from 2023: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/22/technology/ai-photo-labels-google-apple.html
from 2018: https://www.technologyreview.com/2018/01/11/146257/google-photos-still-has-a-problem-with-gorillas/
You'll note that the 2018 article says '...still has...' They've been working on this for almost 20 years and still can't get it right.
"You might want a word with my 2yo grandson. He saw a cartoon gorilla in a book, and proudly proclaimed "Opa"(granddad) - I don't think like I look anything like the gorilla in the cartoon."
I think it would be interesting if you could ask why the photo made him think of you. What was he keying in on? It's the same sort of question for facial recognition. The systems I've seen explained are taking measurements of eyes, ears, noses, etc and it could be that the eye spacing of a gorilla matches or the width of a nose. It could be that several measurements taken in combination that lead an algorithm down a wrong path. Could it be 2D measurements are the problem? Gorillas have deeper set eyes, but the spacing might be similar enough especially if the shape of the face/head vs. eye spacing ratio is the issue.
Wasn't there issues in China with facial recognition failing badly as well? Just like it can take time to develop an 'ear' for a certain accent, it may also take time to dial in one's 'eye' to see the differences in people of a certain ethnicity. One of the issues I've noticed is I don't have the internal language to put certain looks into a category, but I do notice similarities in features of people. There's a certain look that a person on steroids will take on. Any drug, really and the sorts of drugs somebody is using can lead to a certain look. I can see somebody and, to a first order approximation, guess they take meth. How? I don't know how to describe it in terms that would make sense to somebody else. All of this seems to parallel the issue with facial recognition. It isn't racist. It can't be racist. It just runs programs. Not even the programmers are racist. My guess would be they build a system and train it on the people in the office. Once they get it to a certain positive percentage, they'll try it on family members and friends and then IPO and it's shrink-wrapped and handing over to sales. Sales is completely clueless about how the product works but will sell it worldwide anyway and problems start getting reported. Not that a police department that has spent all of that money will want to own up they wasted a big chunk of taxpayer funds on a dud.
"It's a blue-collar job: they aren't lawyers or social workers: they arrest people."
Police officers will generally tell you that in reality a lot of their job is social work. I don't know if it's still the case but senior station officers would be responsible for prosecuting some offences in the magistrates' courts. They'll certainly have received some training in the law. I think you may be underestimating blue collar workers.
Having said that you have to remember that they're human like everyone else and that means that for some being offered a supposedly wonderful technique that will revolutionise their job they'll believe the hype and believe the results.
"they aren't lawyers or social workers"
I'm curious how you came to place lawyers and social workers higher up on the intelligence ladder. I don't recognize that either profession has a preponderance of more intelligent people than police officers. You'll find in the US, that social workers can create just as much pain and grief through stupidity as police officers. Lawyers do it daily and charge lots of money for it.
"He was picked out of a police lineup as the suspect by the victim of the carjacking. As part of the warrant process the robbed man was shown six images, and picked Woodruff based on a picture that was at least eight years old."
This bit doesn't make sense to me. A MALE suspect was arrested driving the stolen vehicle and identified in a lineup as the suspect by the robbery victim. Subsequently the robbery victim was shown photos and then picked a female? Why was he even shown the photos if they already had a suspect for the robbery picked out of a lineup? The unidentified woman returned the phone to a gas station but it is entirely unclear the robbery and carjacking victim ever even saw this woman at all. Why would HE identify her?
This whole thing just stinks of complete and utter incompetence in basic investigative skills on the parts of the police department. The facial recognition is a symptom, not the problem nor the cause.
" may have been just a good citizen who found a phone"
Absolutely this. If there was even reason to suspect that a person was handing the phone back, first step would be questioning to identify when / where the phone was acquired / found. A friendly visit by a couple of officers and a simple line of questioning could have cleared this up with far less fuss rather than full-on arrest warrant served with 6 officers, which is overkill.
Incidentally, also to note that part of the blame is due to the judge who issued the warrant, who should have seen a bunch of red flags in the evidence presented.
She probably didn't identify herself for the same reason I wouldn't. I don't really want to be questioned by the police. The stolen phone example has already occurred to me: someone found a phone on the ground and brought it to me because they thought I would have the skills to locate its owner. The phone had been reset and locked by Google's anti-theft mechanisms, but wouldn't tell me identifying information about the owner. Now do I want to try activating a stolen phone on my network in the hope that Google tells me who to return it to instead of deciding that I stole it? I brought it to a mobile store, asked them if they could find the owner, and left as soon as possible. I don't know what if anything they did with it, but I certainly don't want to be the point of contact for the police on a situation that isn't related to me. The best case scenario is that they record information about me in a system that's likely unprotected and will be leaked in a few years.
"No reason to assume she was a criminal." If you believe that a stranger is simply someone you haven't met yet, then you are right, she is innocent until proven guilty and all that. If, however, you believe a stranger is a threat, and many people including police training officers do, then you get guilt by association laws and a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.
"But the unidentified woman may have been just a good citizen who found a phone, and was trying to find someone who could locate its owner. "
It also makes sense to hand in the phone to a local business if it was found on the premises. Somebody may have dropped it and would likely revisit the places they were that day and ask if it was found. I've done that. I found an iPhone sitting on a seat of a train and handed it in to security as the train was at its last stop for the day. The owner may have discovered they didn't have it and called the station or train offices to see if anything had been turned in.
Covered in the article. The victim picked out the subject of the story from a mugshot that was apparently 8-years-old. Ostensibly, this happened before they found the actual perp driving the stolen car around who was later picked out of a lineup by the victim.
Now, why the process to get a warrant for the subject of the story continued for two weeks after they had the perp in custody is a good question, and one that will likely be difficult for the police to answer in any way other than incompetence.
There does seem to be a slight implication that the car was carjacked by a couple of people and that the "unknown woman" who handed the phone in may have been the one involved in the carjacking simply because she was now associated with the phone and a woman. At least that's the only thing I can think of since the victim was asked to try to identfy her as otherwise how could he possibly know what she looked like?
None of that is made fully clear by the article but the two associations I mentioned above do strongly imply the arrested man was not working alone. The cops were still looking for a second person and made multiple mistakes based on weak evidence bolstered by the facial recognition from the CCTV. And CCTV is notoriously poor quality with badly sited cameras giving odd angles in the recordings.
"And CCTV is notoriously poor quality with badly sited cameras giving odd angles in the recordings."
This is the thing that always get me mad. There is the technology today to capture very very good imagery and yet even a jewelry business will install bottom of the barrel CCTV high up in a corner with poor line of sight. I think this has led to the rise of the hoodie. A crap CCTV camera with poor bandwidth isn't going to capture a detailed photo of a face in the shadows. If the person has dark skin or is wearing a dark mask, fuggetaboutit. I also see stores where the cameras face the front of the shop blowing the image out so all it captures is blobs moving about. The criminals know all of this and may choose their targets based on poor security device placement.
"and one that will likely be difficult for the police to answer in any way other than incompetence."
Government has a lot of incompetence. It's almost impossible for gov employees to get fired so the bad apples just stay around polluting the rest of the barrel.
There was a recent story of a house that was demolished by a city where they claimed they sent notices to the owner. They sent the notices to the wrong address even though the owner was receiving other communications just fine and had filed a vacant property permit (yeah, it can be a thing) and received back a confirmation. The property was very old and being renovated. I think the work was being done by the owner as and when he had funds so it wasn't going so quickly that tradesman's vans would be at the home very often. The city isn't apologizing for its gross incompetence either, they're going after the owner for the cost of the demolition.
Detroit is border line collapsed if published reports are valid . Gresham's Law can be applied to organizations also. So that any police are not going to the best or if good will migrate elsewhere. What I can not understand is carjacking is an act that must be completed in under 5 minutes if to be successful. At eight months a woman is at her most ungainliness and often takes more than 5 minutes to enter a standard auto . Don't even think of compacts or their kin.
5 minutes = 2-3 minutes for a bystander to understand what's happening; 2-3 minutes for the bystander to determine what will be the response.
I mean... I can kind of understand the position of the cops, since no doubt every time they go to arrest someone they have some story about why they're innocent and there was a lawful warrant issued. Still, when they show up and the person they are supposed to arrest is very obviously pregnant that should have at least warranted someone radioing the local precinct to say they think this isn't the right person. And instead of booking her, just have her sit at a detective's desk or something while they sort things out. That goes double and triple when you already have a suspect in custody.
"should have at least warranted someone radioing the local precinct to say they think this isn't the right person. "
Many 8-months pregnant women don't travel well either. It's not like she was going on the lamb if they didn't grab her right away. A couple of more kids at home acts as an anchor as well. She could have been interviewed at home rather than dragged downtown and booked only to find out she wasn't who they were looking for.
"But the big one is cops just aren't very bright."
It could be a level or two deeper too. Did the officers have any discretion over whether they could arrest her or not?
I like the line in Men in Black where K says something like "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. " There were 6 officers present and more than 3 people can't even decide where to go for lunch. (Heinlein).
Cops cuffing people in the US is routine, its just their way of demonstrating that they have the power. There is a lack of common sense -- again routine/normal -- which is exacerbated by the subject being black/minority.
If you think this is insane then there's a family of four who recently got held at gunpoint after a traffic stop because the cops mistyped their plate into their computer. Once again, being black was prima facie evidence of guilt. (Yes folks, its 2023 but attitudes are still 1963 in many parts of the US, the only thing that's changed is that the chances of being found out are much higher.)
"If you think this is insane then there's a family of four who recently got held at gunpoint after a traffic stop because the cops mistyped their plate into their computer. Once again, being black was prima facie evidence of guilt."
I'll give you a big thumbs down for that one. The plate came back with information that there could be a wanted person and that didn't have anything to do with the skin color of the occupants. At least not as you have re-told the tale. You are also not telling where this took place and the ethnicity of the officers. If it was in an area where the population is predominately black, that the people in the car were black wouldn't be very surprising. If you generalize the US as a whole, it could be a 1 in 10 or so chance anyway.
A crime happens, they arrest someone. Job done. The tech makes it easy to identify a person to arrest - even better. Whether that person is actually guilty of the crime is not relevant. The police have done their job.
And if an innocent person (or their surviving relatives) does win a massive settlement in court, it doesn't come out of the police budget.