Faulty facial recognition led to a Black man’s nightmarish ordeal
On Wednesday, July 5, the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) held a press conference to announce that it was filing a lawsuit on behalf of 21-year-old Kylese Perryman against the Bloomington Police Department (BPD), Hennepin County, and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. The lawsuit, over an alleged 2021 violation of Perryman’s Fourth Amendment rights, was brought by the ACLU in conjunction with pro bono attorneys from Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough.
Perryman was wrongfully arrested in September 2021 based solely on a faulty facial recognition analysis. Perryman says he was pulled over for expired tabs while driving home from his father’s house, and subsequently arrested and charged in a carjacking and robbery that he did not commit.
At the time of the carjacking, Perryman had been clocked in at his overnight job at a Target warehouse. He was sleeping at the time of the robbery, and at a family birthday party at the time the suspects attempted to use the credit cards they stole during the robbery.
He was also around half a foot taller and dozens of pounds lighter than the actual suspect. Perryman feels the only reason he was arrested is because he and the suspect are both Black.
“It is outrageous that law enforcement relied solely on false facial recognition to arrest and jail Kylese Perryman, and failed to do even a basic investigation that would have easily demonstrated his innocence,” ACLU of MN Executive Director Deepinder Mayell said. “Police carelessly and recklessly identified him as another Black man and left it at that. That is not how our system is supposed to work.”
Perryman spent five days in jail and was initially denied bail by the Hennepin County prosecutor’s office. His lawyers eventually managed to allow him to go home under house arrest, but he had to wear an ankle monitor. Perryman said he had to secure permission from the court to go to the hospital for the birth of his son.
“Good old-fashioned investigation would have made it very easy to rule out Mr. Perryman,” Molly Jean Given, one of Perryman’s lawyers, said.
The ACLU of Minnesota Legal Director Teresa Nelson said facial recognition software is up to 100 times more likely to misidentify Black people. In 2021, Minneapolis passed an ordinance banning the use of facial recognition technology by city agencies, including the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), in part because of the flaws in the technology when applied to Black and Brown people, women, and older adults. However, the ban does not extend to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.
“While we’re seeing growing reliance on facial recognition technology and facial recognition more generally, there are a myriad of stories of people who have been wrongly identified and the studies show that the error rates are amplified with people of color,” Nelson said. “And not only is it an ongoing problem, but it is an ongoing problem that serves to increase racial disparities in our criminal system.”
Perryman said he had already feared the police his whole life, and for him the false arrest “sealed the deal. I feel like I had to prove my innocence more than they had to prove I was a suspect, and the system is not supposed to work in that way.”
Nelson said the lawsuit is seeking injunctive relief against the defending parties, meaning the ACLU wants the court to force policy changes in law enforcement regarding the use of facial recognition technology. Mayell hopes that the lawsuit sends a message to all law enforcement that facial recognition “is not enough” to arrest someone.
Perryman said he brought the lawsuit so that no one else, especially his children, would have to go through what he did.
“What happened was wrong, yet this kind of thing happens to people of color all the time,” he said. “I feel like all people should be treated the same regardless of their skin color, race or religion, and that’s why I’m part of the lawsuit, trying to change things for my kids’ generation.”
So far, the Bloomington Police Department and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office have not responded to requests for comment on their use of facial recognition technology.