Alonzo Sawyer facial recognition wrongful arrest, jailing

Occurred: 2022

54-year old Alonzo Sawyer was arrested and jailed for nine days for an assault and theft he did not commit thanks to poor analysis of CCTV footage using facial recognition by an intelligence analyst at the Maryland Transit Administration Police.

The analysis failed to take into account the fact that Sawyer is older, taller than the suspect in the video, has facial hair and gaps between his teeth, and his right foot slews out when he walks, according to photographs shown to the police by his wife.

Maryland Chiefs of Police Association president Russ Hamill said that what happened to Alonzo Sawyer was 'horrifying' when speaking in opposition to a bill seeking to regulate the use of facial recognition in Maryland.

According to Deborah Levi, a Baltimore public defender in Baltimore, the Baltimore Police Department used facial recognition over 800 times in 2022.

In January 2023, it emerged that Georgia man Randall Reid had been wrongly arrested and jailed for a purse theft incident in Baton Rouge using facial recognition by Louisiana authorities, even though he had never visited the state.

Operator: Baltimore Police Department

Country: USA

Sector: Govt - police 

Purpose: Strengthen security

Technology: CCTV; Facial recognition
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity

Transparency: Governance; Black box