Detroit police can keep using facial recognition — with limits

DETROIT — The Detroit police department won key support Thursday for its use of facial recognition technology amid vocal concerns about privacy violations and false identifications.

After months of heated protests, the Board of Police Commissioners, a civilian body that oversees the Detroit police, approved new guidelines on Thursday that endorse the use of the technology along with safeguards to prevent its misuse. The new policy approved by the board restricts police use of facial recognition to still photographs connected to violent crime and home invasion investigations. The new guidelines also require several layers of approvals within the department before the technology can be used and prohibit certain uses, such as identifying people at political events like protests.

“This is a great day,” said police Chief James Craig, noting that when the technology is used to identify criminals, “we all win. Families win. The city wins.”

Critics, though, said the vote would jeopardize the civil liberties of Detroiters.

“You voted yes on some high-tech racism that’s being used by the Detroit Police Department in this city,” said Reggie Crawford, a Detroiter who identified himself as a former police officer and a former member of the oversight board when he addressed the board after the vote. “This technology is flawed.”

Software that compares people’s photos to images in a database to try to learn their identities has been the subject of heated opposition across the country, especially given research showing the tools are more likely to misidentify people with darker skin.