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Lawsuit: Man claims he was falsely arrested because of misuse of facial recognition technology


(NEW YORK) — A Black man was wrongfully arrested and held for nearly a week in jail because of the alleged misuse of facial recognition technology, according to a civil lawsuit filed against the arresting police officers.

Randal Quran Reid, 29, was driving to his mother’s home outside of Atlanta the day after Thanksgiving when police pulled him over, according to Reid.

“They told me that I had a warrant out of Jefferson Parish. I asked, ‘Where’s Jefferson Parish?’ because I had never heard of that county,” Reid told ABC News. “And then they told me it was in Louisiana. Then I was confused because I had never been to Louisiana.”

The DeKalb County police officers who pulled Reid over were in possession of two warrants issued by Jefferson and East Baton Rouge Parishes in Louisiana for Reid’s arrest, according to a lawsuit filed by Reid for an unspecified amount. He was then taken to a DeKalb County jail to await extradition to Louisiana, according to Reid.

“I asked them why was I being locked up,” Reid said. “‘What is it [the warrant] even saying that I did?’ And then they just kept telling me that it was out of their jurisdiction and they didn’t really know.”

Officers of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office used facial recognition technology to identify Reid as a suspect who was wanted for using stolen credit cards to buy approximately $15,000 worth of designer purses in Jefferson and East Baton Rouge Parishes, according to the complaint filed by Reid.

“[The facial recognition technology] spit out three names: Quran plus two individuals,” Gary Andrews, Reid’s lawyer and senior attorney at The Cochran Firm in Atlanta, told ABC News. “It is our belief that the detective in this case took those names … and just sought arrest warrants without doing any other investigation, without doing anything else to determine whether or not Quran was actually the individual that was in the store video.”

The individuals named as defendants in the complaint are Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO) deputy Andrew Bartholomew and JPSO Sheriff Joseph P. Lopinto III.

Bartholomew did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment. Lopinto told ABC News, “The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office cannot make a statement at this time because the case is currently in litigation.”

Every state in the country has police departments that use facial recognition technology in their investigative work, according to Nate Freed Wessler, deputy director of the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU doesn’t have an exact count of how many police departments use the technology because many of them use it in secrecy, according to Wessler.

“Part of the problem with this technology is that the public lacks good information about how it’s actually being used,” Wessler told ABC News. “It’s often used in tremendous secrecy by police. And we know that it often misidentifies people, which has led to wrongful arrests in six known cases [around the country] but probably more cases than that.”

According to Wessler, all known cases of false arrests due to facial recognition technology were of Black or African-American people.

Reid was held in a DeKalb County prison for six days as his parents and lawyers scrambled to find a way to clear his name before his extradition to Louisiana, Reid said. After his lawyers sent multiple pictures of Reid to JPSO for them to realize that they had the wrong person in detainment, his warrants were thrown out and he was finally released, Andrews told ABC News.

According to the complaint, Reid’s lawyers believe that JPSO uses facial recognition technology by Clearview AI, Inc.

“More than one million searches have been conducted using Clearview AI. One false arrest is one too many, and we have tremendous empathy for the person who was wrongfully accused,” Hoan Ton-That, Clearview AI CEO, told ABC News in a statement. “Even if Clearview AI came up with the initial result, that is the beginning of the investigation by law enforcement to determine, based on other factors, whether the correct person has been identified.”

Clearview AI would not confirm with ABC News if JPSO uses its technology.

“There’s always risk when you go to jail, but I felt more in danger when I was being detained because I know it was for something I didn’t do,” Reid said. “I lost faith in the justice system to know that you could be locked up for something that you’ve never done.”

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