NEW REPORT ON PREDICTIVE POLICING SHOWS HOW NEW TECH IS GIVING US LITTLE MORE THAN THE SAME OLD RACISM | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

NEW REPORT ON PREDICTIVE POLICING SHOWS HOW NEW TECH IS GIVING US LITTLE MORE THAN THE SAME OLD RACISM

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has just released an in-depth examination of predictive policing. Titled "Garbage In, Gospel Out," it details the many ways bad data based on biased policing has been allowed to generate even more bad data, allowing officers to engage in more biased policing but with the blessing of algorithms.

Given that law enforcement in this country can trace itself back to pre- and post-Civil War slave patrols, it’s hardly surprising modern policing -- with all of its tech advances -- still disproportionately targets people of color. Operating under the assumption that past performance is an indicator of future results, predictive policing programs (and other so-called "intelligence-led" policing efforts) send officers to places they’ve already been several times, creating a self-perpetuating feedback loop that ensures the more often police head to a certain area, the more often police will head to a certain area.

As the report [PDF] points out, predictive policing is inadvertently accurately named. It doesn’t predict where crime will happen. It only predicts how police will behave.

If crime data is to be understood as a “by-product of police activity,” then any predictive algorithms trained on this data would be predicting future policing, not future crime. Neighborhoods that have been disproportionately targeted by law enforcement in the past will be overrepresented in a crime dataset, and officers will become increasingly likely to patrol these same areas in order to “observe new criminal acts that confirm their prior beliefs regarding the distributions of criminal activity.” As the algorithm becomes increasingly confident that these locations are most likely to experience further criminal activity, the volume of arrests in these areas will continue to rise, fueling a never-ending cycle of distorted enforcement.

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