Rashida Tlaib and Detroit police get in Twitter spat over ‘facial recognition bulls—‘

Aaron Schwartz

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and the Detroit Police Department on Tuesday clashed on Twitter over law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology, with Tlaib calling the tool “bulls**t.”

The exchange between the congresswoman and the police department came just days after 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for banning police use of facial recognition software in his criminal justice reform package

{mosads}”@detroitpolice You should probably rethink this whole facial recognition bulls**t,” Tlaib tweeted early Tuesday, linking to a report on Sanders’s plan to overhaul the criminal justice system. 

The blunt assessment from Tlaib prompted a reply from the Detroit Police Department, which urged her to witness how the department uses facial recognition technology before criticizing it.

“Before you criticize the software, come to our Real Time Crime Center to see how we @detroitpolice responsibly use it in efforts to identify criminals involved in violent crimes,” the department’s official account tweeted. “Let’s set a date.”

Detroit Police Chief James Craig also pushed back against Tlaib’s critique, saying that the congresswoman needed to consider the software’s strengths. 

“Nobody ever talks about the victims in these cases,” Craig said in an interview with The Detroit News. “I would offer a word of caution to the congresswoman about using that kind of language in referring to technology that gives these grieving family members closure.”

For her part, Tlaib said she would be willing to visit the Detroit Police Department. But she argued that facial recognition technology is “flawed,” adding that she’d bring data on its weaknesses during her visit. 

The exchange came as lawmakers around the nation voice concerns about law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology and whether it infringes on individuals’ privacy. San Francisco in May became the first U.S. city to prohibit its use by local law enforcement and other city agencies. 

The Detroit Police Department uses facial recognition technology. But the city charter says that the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners must approve a policy on how it can be utilized.

Recent board meetings have reportedly been full of residents who have expressed opposition to the department’s use of the tool. No vote regarding the technology has been scheduled, The Detroit News noted.  

Tags Bernie Sanders Rashida Tlaib

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