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Rashida Tlaib Demands The Detroit Police Department Only Hire African Americans For Facial Recognition Program

By  Molly Prince
Rashida Tlaib listens during a House Financial Services Committee hearing
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While touring the Detroit Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center on Monday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) urged the department to only hire black individuals to work as facial recognition analysts.

“Analysts need to be African Americans, not people that are not,” Tlaib told Police Chief  James Craig while he was showing her live footage from video cameras around the city.

“No, this happens all the time,” Tlaib added after Craig shook his head at the demand. “It’s true. I mean, I think non-African Americans think that African Americans all look the same.”

The freshman congresswoman put forth that non-African Americans have even confused Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and John Lewis (D-GA) while on the floor of the House of Representatives.

“They’re totally different people. I’m just saying,” Tlaib said. “I see it all the time and I love them because they, like, go along with it.”

“I trust people who are trained regardless of race and regardless of gender,” Craig replied. “It is about the training.”

“But it does make a huge difference,” Tlaib interjected.

Tlaib later defended her calls for a team of only black analysts to George Hunter, a reporter with The Detroit News. When Hunter questioned whether she believes that white people are not qualified for employment, she contended that studies have shown that individuals have an easier time identifying members of their own race.

After he pressed her further on whether that means African American individuals should be prohibited from identifying white individuals with the technology, Tlaib told him to “look it up” and walked away.

“The studies (Tlaib mentioned are) related to cross-race effect or other-race effect,” Tlaib’s spokesman later followed up with The Detroit News. “This has shown that individuals are less accurate when identifying people from a race other than their own.”

“Detroit has a black population of more than 80%, so that is where her basis came from and what she was trying to convey when it comes to accurate identification,” he continued, with a link to a study from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

The tour comes nearly a month after Tlaib publicly referred to the facial recognition program “bullsh**” and urged the Detroit Police Department to rethink their program. Officials with the department responded by inviting the Michigan lawmaker to tour the Public Safety Headquarters and see how the police force uses the software.

“[Rashida Tlaib], Before you criticize the software, come to our Real Time Crime Center to see how we [Detroit Police] responsibly use it in efforts to identify criminals involved in violent crimes,” the police department responded through its official Twitter account. “Let’s set a date.”

Tlaib’s initial remark was in response to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) recently released criminal justice plan which calls for a nationwide ban on facial recognition technology, among other things.

The Democratic lawmaker has made vulgar comments while serving in her official capacity as a member of Congress on multiple occasions. Only hours after Tlaib was sworn into office, she was recorded vowing to go after President Donald Trump. Referring to the president, Tlaib shouted at a crowd of her left-wing supporters that she is going to go in and “impeach the motherf****r.”

While the profanity drew immediate criticism from both sides of the political aisle, the Michigan congresswoman has touted her vulgar statement as an anti-Trump rallying cry.

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