What happened at Yale
In the United States, people of color are dealing with more interactions with the police. Some of these incidents are related to the inability of authorities to use efficient ID verification. Most recently a non-threatening, black, graduate student at Yale had the police called on her while she was asleep in her dorm’s common room. According to Time, this 911 call was placed with racially biased motivations.
Lolande Sinyonbola, the victim, posted two videos of the encounter on Facebook. In the first video, she talks with her white neighbor, Sarah Braach, who says, “I have every right to call the police. You cannot sleep in that room.” In the second, Sinyonbola interacts with officers who question her and then ask for her ID to validate her identity and right to be in the building.
Officers call Siyonbola’s ID in, and after some confusion about it – the name on her ID did not match the name in the Yale student database–the police let her go. In this case, if the police had efficient ID verification methods this incident could have been diverted.
Interactions with the Police are on the Rise
This event follows several others in recent weeks where people of color have had the police called on them, sparking outrage on social media about racial profiling (CNN). In one incident, a group of black people was detained while leaving their Airbnb in California. In another, two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia when they did not order anything from the menu. In yet another, two Native American teens were removed from a tour at Colorado State University because they made a mother on the tour nervous.
Efficient ID Verification and Authentication Needs Improvement
At Yale, new technologies could have made the process of validating Sinyonbola’s identity much easier. Officers could have used mobile technologies to determine if Siyonbola’s ID was real without calling it in. From there, it could have taken the information from her ID and run it through an API to crosscheck it against the records in the Yale database. This would have occurred in real time and given officers the information they needed to de-escalate the situation in a more efficient and quick manner.
It is clear based on recent news reports that solutions need to be implemented that make ID verification and authentication less complicated. This would reduce the risk of embarrassing people of color who are being affected by actions motivated by racial bias. Plus, police officers would have an easier time doing their jobs.