Nijeer Parks, a 33-year old African American man from New Jersey, is suing police and prosecutors after he was wrongfully arrested and jailed when facial recognition technology falsely linked him to a shoplifting incident that he did not commit.
In 2019, Parks, who is from the city of Paterson, was issued an arrest warrant stating that he stole from a Hampton Inn gift store in the city of Woodbridge and tried to hit a police car.
He quickly disputed the claim when he went to the police station to clear his name, saying that at that time, he didn’t own a car and a driver’s license and he was even 30 miles away from the incident. But he was arrested.
Parks spent 10 days in jail and in the span of those days, he said the police and prosecutors didn’t even make an effort to check his fingerprints and DNA that should have proven his innocence.
“Defendant police department was relying solely on the faulty and illegal [facial recognition software] or some analogous program while all evidence and forensics confirmed plaintiff had no relationship to the suspect for the crimes,” according to the lawsuit by Parks’ attorney, Daniel Sexton.
Eventually, the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence, but not without him paying thousands of dollars in legal fees and leaving a permanent mark in his life.
Parks is filing a lawsuit against the police, county prosecutors, and the city of Woodbridge, New Jersey for violation of his civil rights, false arrest, and false imprisonment.
Meanwhile, Parks is the third person reported to have been wrongfully arrested due to faulty facial recognition technology. According to ABC News, a study in 2019 found that the algorithms aren’t reliable in distinguishing faces of people with dark skin, thus resulting in racial bias.