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Man wrongly jailed by facial recognition, lawyer claims

Suspected purse snatcher snatched 'in error'

A US man was arrested and thrown in jail for nearly a week due to an alleged false facial-recognition match.

Randall Reid, 28, was pulled over by cops as he was driving along a highway in Georgia on November 25. There was a warrant out for Reid's arrest as he was suspected of stealing designer purses from a shop in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans, Louisiana.

He was cuffed and jailed until December 1. Reid's attorney, Tommy Calegero, claimed the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office had used facial recognition software to identify the fashion thief, and Reid was wrongly matched by the technology. In effect, we're told, Reid was innocent, and was incorrectly identified by the cops, presumably from surveillance footage.

Calegero told The Register detectives didn't directly admit to using the technology but "tacitly acknowledged the only connection between [Reid] and the perpetrator was the face, and I believe a driver's license." That is to say, the suspect's face matched with Reid's photo ID on record.

"My understanding is that it had to be facial recognition," he added.

Reid denied any criminal involvement in the thefts.

"They told me I had a warrant out of Jefferson Parish. I said, 'What is Jefferson Parish?'" Reid explained to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. "I have never been to Louisiana a day in my life. Then they told me it was for theft. So not only have I not been to Louisiana, I also don't steal."

What's more, detectives in Baton Rouge saw the warrant out for Reid in Jefferson Parish, believed he was among three men who raided another shop, on Jefferson Highway, and issued another arrest warrant for Reid. It was claimed the trio stole more than $10,000 in Chanel and Louis Vuitton purses in a matter of days.

Calegero said Reid was released from DeKalb County jail after police realized differences between him and the suspect. Reid has a mole on his face and looks slimmer compared to the suspect's "flabby arms."

There are 300 million people in this country. All of us have someone who appears identical to us

"Police could have checked his height and weight or made an effort to speak to him or asked to walk through his house to look for evidence. He would have complied," Calogero said.

"There are 300 million people in this country. All of us have someone who appears identical to us," he warned.

Law enforcement at the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office reportedly have access to facial recognition software provided by biometric startups Clearview AI and Morphotrak. The Register has asked the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office for comment. 

Experts have repeatedly warned that facial recognition technology is less accurate at identifying people with darker skin. Reid isn't the first person of color to have been wrongfully arrested due to computer vision algorithms employed by law enforcement returning a false match.

"Not eating, not sleeping. I'm thinking about these charges," Reid said of his time in jail. "Not doing anything because I don't know what's really going on the whole time. They didn't even try to make the right ID." ®

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