News and Commentary

Tlaib Defends Her Demand To Detroit Police To Only Hire Black Individuals: ‘My Comments Weren’t Racist’
Rashida Tlaib questions US Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) defended herself against a slew of racist accusations after she urged the Detroit Police Department to only hire black individuals to work as facial recognition analysts.

“I’m going to call out every injustice I see. It’s probably what makes most people uncomfortable when I speak the truth,” Tlaib wrote in an op-ed on Friday. “My comments weren’t racist, out of order, or ‘inappropriate.’ It is inappropriate to implement a broken, flawed and racist technology that doesn’t recognize black and brown faces in a city that is over 80% black.”

“I’m not going to mince words when my residents are threatened. The Detroit News should not take Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s bait and help him to distract from the fact that broken technology is being used to lock up black and brown people in Detroit,” she continued. “While the continued fascination with my every word is flattering, it will not get me to back away from the truth.”

Tlaib’s remarks were in reference to a Detroit News editorial’s declaration that the freshman congresswoman “should wake up” and realize that she has followed President Donald Trump “down the racist rabbit hole.”

The controversy arose after Tlaib publicly called the department’s facial recognition program “bulls***” in August. Officials subsequently responded by inviting her to tour the Public Safety Headquarters and see how the police force uses the software.

While touring the Real Time Crime Center last week, Tlaib stated to Craig that “analysts need to be African-Americans, not people that are not.”

“No, this happens all the time,” Tlaib said 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.”

While Craig responded at the time that he trusts his trained employees regardless of race, he later slammed the Michigan lawmaker while speaking to a local news outlet.

“The fact that she made that statement, what does that say to the members of this department who are analysts, who are trained, who are white? That they in some way can’t do their job professionally? That’s insulting,” he said. “But here’s what is troubling: As a police chief who happens to be African-American in this city, if I made a similar statement, people would be calling for my resignation right now.”

“It’s our analysts who go through with tremendous rigor and identify the most probable suspect, if at all,” he continued. “It’s not the technology — it’s the people behind the technology. If we just relied solely on the technology and we went to the top match, we would misidentify probably as much as 95% of the time.”

Tlaib, however, seemed to ignore Craig’s contention that the facial recognition technology relies on human training to identify criminals, as well as his assertion that the technology alone does not incriminate individuals, but rather is merely a tool.

“I was elected to serve my residents, and I cannot in good conscience sit by while inaccurate facial recognition technology is deployed in ways that run the risk of false arrests and over-policing,” Tlaib said. “Facial recognition technology will have racist results and relying on human analysts for intervention is inadequate. We need to ban facial recognition.”