‘Chicago P.D.’ Reveals the Dangers of Software-Driven Crime-Solving (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 7, Episode 6 of Chicago P.D., “False Positive.”]
If it sounds too good to be true, it very well might be.
Such is the case for Voight (Jason Beghe) and Crawford (Paul Adelstein) seemingly being able to work together — or at least not trying to get the other booted from his job — and a new facial-recognition software that identifies a suspect with 99.64% certainty in Wednesday’s episode of Chicago P.D.
After responding to a call of shots fired, Jay (Jesse Lee Soffer) finds one kid hiding in the bathroom and two others dead in the living room. It looks like a “dope hit gone wrong”; the offender kicked in the door and started shooting. The kids were in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of the victims was the nephew of the shot-caller, Kareem, of a local gang, the Westside Hustlers. Despite his lieutenant Prophet’s protests, Kareem tells Voight what he had in the stash house.
And they have a suspect on camera two blocks away after the report of gunshots, holding a bag matching Kareem’s description. Crawford insists they use a new facial recognition system to identify the suspect. It’s still in testing stages, not even on the books, but it works, he promises. And it gives them a match: Marcus West, who lives nearby, has a history of theft, drugs, and guns, and is affiliated with a gang in the Hustlers’ shadows.
But Voight isn’t so sure. “It’s handing us a suspect before we’ve got a case,” he argues. “We’ve got no evidence. We’ve got no motive.” Crawford’s not worried; he can even get them a warrant. And Jay’s haunted by the crime scene and determined to lock up the killer. In fact, Jay is the one to press Marcus hard once they pick him up, even as the guy insists he didn’t do it. In hopes of getting a confession, Jay throws him into the county prison, but Marcus’ story doesn’t change.
Then comes the heartbreaking news: Marcus was attacked and left with severe head injuries that required the doctor to induce a coma. A member of the Hustlers just so happened to turn himself in for outstanding warrants going back three years. And the shooter kicked the door in after killing the kids, to make it look like a break-in. The shooter is someone in the Hustlers.
It just gets worse when Marcus’ friend gives him an alibi — he was sleeping on his couch and a security camera confirms he was there at the time of the shooting. Marcus was high, and he was protecting his friend, who has outstanding warrants. They got the wrong guy, they realize, just before receiving news that Marcus died of his injuries.
That’s when Derek, who ran the facial-recognition software for them, admits that it gives them false positives. “It’s rare, but it happens, mostly to black people,” Derek reveals. “The code was written by white engineers who designed it around predominantly white facial features and tested it on their white friends, so it’s less precise if you’re black. And here’s the really bad part: the darker your skin, the worst the problem gets.” He’d warned Crawford, but that’s something Intelligence should’ve been told.
Upon hearing what happened, Crawford wants to place the blame on Jay, who put Marcus in county. But Voight reminds him he told them to rely on the program. As soon as they catch the real killer, everyone will know an innocent man is dead and wants heads on pikes. So he lets Voight name their play: identify the real killer (Prophet), tell Kareem, and let him handle it himself.
And, as Prophet’s body is found, Crawford gives a press conference, identifying Marcus as the killer, found through the software. Their hope is to take it citywide next year after “fine-tuning.”
Once again, Voight and Crawford manage to work together without too much debate. But is it just a matter of time before Crawford turns on Voight and Intelligence — he was willing to throw Jay under the bus — for his own benefit?
Chicago P.D., Wednesdays, 10/9c, NBC