How Wrongful Arrests Based on AI Derailed 3 Men’s Lives

After his arrest, Parks didn’t tell many people, in part because of his prior record. “When you’re trying to do the right thing and change and do things differently and then something like that happens, people look at you like ‘Did you really do it?’” he says.

A small group of close family and friends knew about his ordeal, and for Parks, the false accusation divided those closest to him into two groups: people who stood by him after the arrest, and family and friends who didn’t want to be around him. In part because of the arrest, Parks says he’s no longer with his fiancée.

“Some people came back and apologized and said ‘It looked like you and so you know I just took it for what it was,’” he says. “Sometimes things happen.”

Parks says he didn’t discuss the arrest with his 10-year-old son while he fought the case, but they discussed it after watching a 60 Minutes segment that aired in May 2021 on facial recognition use in criminal investigations. His son questioned why his father was arrested, and Parks said they discussed how Black men have to act differently around police, a rite of passage for Black families sometimes referred to as The Talk. It was the first time they had that type of conversation.

“I said as Black men there’s certain things we can’t do in police presence,” Parks said.

In response to the lawsuit, the mayor of Woodbridge, director of the Woodbridge Police Department, and officers involved in the case denied allegations. A lawyer representing the Woodbridge County Corrections Department also denied allegations that Parks was subject to excessive force.

Facial recognition manufacturer Idemia did not respond to comment about the accusation of malice or shocking disregard that merit awarding punitive damages to Parks.

The Broken Smartphone

Oliver, 28, says his biggest fear after his arrest was going to trial and losing. He was arrested in Ferndale, Michigan, during a traffic stop in July 2019, two months after Detroit police issued a warrant for his arrest for allegedly grabbing a smartphone from a teacher recording a fight outside a school and throwing it on the ground. Oliver was at work when the crime occurred. As a result of the arrest, Oliver says, he lost his job painting car parts and it took about a year for his life to return to normal.

“I’ve got a son, I’ve got my family, I’ve got my own little house, paying all my bills, so once I got arrested and I lost my job, it was like everything fell, like everything went down the drain,” Oliver says.

Oliver was identified by facial recognition software based on a screenshot shared with police from the video by the teacher. The teacher initially identified a former student as the suspect but later picked Oliver from a photo lineup. But Oliver’s public defender, Patrick Nyenhuis, told Detroit’s WXYZ TV that he realized quickly when he met Oliver at a pretrial hearing that Oliver doesn’t resemble the man in the video. Oliver has several tattoos, while the person in the video has no visible tattoos. Wayne County prosecutors ultimately agreed and dropped the charges.

“I’ve got a son, I’ve got my family, I’ve got my own little house, paying all my bills, so once I got arrested and I lost my job, it was like everything fell, like everything went down the drain.” 

Michael Oliver

Nyenhuis said the detective investigating the case appeared to take shortcuts, including failing to question Oliver or review a video of the incident before his arrest.

In October 2020, Oliver sued the city of Detroit and Detective Donald Bussa in federal court in Michigan seeking damages for emotional distress and economic loss. The suit alleges Bussa did not accurately represent facts in the warrant, including the teacher’s initial identification of a former student, and that the detective didn’t contact multiple witnesses or the school where the fight took place.

Get in Touch

Related Articles

Latest Posts