Incident 74: Detroit Police Wrongfully Arrested Black Man Due To Faulty FRT

Description: A Black man was wrongfully detained by the Detroit Police Department as a result of a false facial recognition (FRT) result..


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Alleged: DataWorks Plus developed an AI system deployed by Detroit Police Department, which harmed Robert Julian-Borchak Williams and Black people in Detroit.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
Report Count
Incident Date
Sean McGregor, Khoa Lam

CSETv0 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Full Description

In June 2020, the Detroit Police Department wrongfully arrested Robert Julian-Borchak Williams after facial recognition techonology provided by DataWorks Plus had mistaken Williams for a black man who was recorded on a CCTV camera stealing. This incident is cited as an instance where facial recognition continues to possess racial bias, especially towards the Black and Asian population.

Short Description

The Detroit Police Department wrongfully arrest a black man due to its faulty facial recognition program provided by Dataworks Plus.



Harm Distribution Basis


Harm Type

Harm to civil liberties

AI System Description

DataWorks Plus facial recognition software was provided to the Detroit Police Department and focuses on biometrics storage and matching, including fingerprints, palm prints, irises, tattoos, and mugshots.

System Developer

DataWorks Plus

Sector of Deployment

Public administration and defence

Relevant AI functions

Perception, Cognition, Action

AI Techniques

facial recognition, machine learning, environmental sensing

AI Applications

Facial recognition, environmental sensing, biometrics, image recognition, speech recognition


United States (Detroit, Michigan)

Named Entities

Detroit Police Department, DataWorks Plus

Technology Purveyor

DataWorks Plus

Beginning Date


Ending Date


Near Miss

Harm caused



Lives Lost


Data Inputs

biometrics, images, camera footage

GMF Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Known AI Goal

Face Recognition

Known AI Technology

Face Detection

Potential AI Technology

Convolutional Neural Network, Distributional Learning

Potential AI Technical Failure

Dataset Imbalance, Generalization Failure, Underfitting, Covariate Shift

AI technologies — like police facial recognition — discriminate against people of colour · 2020

Detroit police wrongfully arrested Robert Julian-Borchak Williams in January 2020 for a shoplifting incident that had taken place two years earlier. Even though Williams had nothing to do with the incident, facial recognition technology use… · 2020

"Note: In response to this article, the Wayne County prosecutor’s office said that Robert Julian-Borchak Williams could have the case and his fingerprint data expunged. “We apologize,” the prosecutor, Kym L. Worthy, said in a statement, add…

'The Computer Got It Wrong': How Facial Recognition Led To False Arrest Of Black Man · 2020

Updated 9:05 p.m. ET Wednesday

Police in Detroit were trying to figure out who stole five watches from a Shinola retail store. Authorities say the thief took off with an estimated $3,800 worth of merchandise.

Investigators pulled a security…

Detroit police admit to first facial recognition mistake after false arrest · 2020

On Wednesday morning, the ACLU announced that it was filing a complaint against the Detroit Police Department on behalf of Robert Williams, a Black Michigan resident whom the group said is one of the first people falsely arrested due to fac…

Detroit Police Chief: Facial Recognition Software Misidentifies 96% of the Time · 2020

Detroit police have used highly unreliable facial recognition technology almost exclusively against Black people so far in 2020, according to the Detroit Police Department’s own statistics. The department’s use of the technology gained nati…

Facial Recognition Blamed For False Arrest And Jail Time · 2020

Racial bias and facial recognition. Black man in New Jersey arrested by police and spends ten days in jail after false face recognition match

Accuracy and racial bias concerns about facial recognition technology continue with the news of a …

Teaneck NJ bans facial recognition usage for police, citing bias · 2021

Teaneck just banned facial recognition technology for police. Here's why

Show Caption Hide Caption Facial recognition program that works even if you’re wearing a mask A Japanese company says they’ve developed a system that can bypass face c…

Wrongfully arrested man sues Detroit police over false facial recognition match · 2021

A Michigan man has sued Detroit police after he was wrongfully arrested and falsely identified as a shoplifting suspect by the department’s facial recognition software in one of the first lawsuits of its kind to call into question the contr…

It's time to address facial recognition, the most troubling law enforcement AI tool · 2021

Since a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd in March 2020 and re-ignited massive Black Lives Matter protests, communities across the country have been re-thinking law enforcement, from granular scrutiny of the ways that police us…

How Wrongful Arrests Based on AI Derailed 3 Men's Lives · 2022

ROBERT WILLIAMS WAS doing yard work with his family one afternoon last August when his daughter Julia said they needed a family meeting immediately. Once everyone was inside the house, the 7-year-old girl closed all the blinds and curtains …


A "variant" is an incident that shares the same causative factors, produces similar harms, and involves the same intelligent systems as a known AI incident. Rather than index variants as entirely separate incidents, we list variations of incidents under the first similar incident submitted to the database. Unlike other submission types to the incident database, variants are not required to have reporting in evidence external to the Incident Database. Learn more from the research paper.