Facing Criminal Charges? You Need An Attorney
With Over 35 Years Of Experience.

Is predictive policing discriminatory?

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2022 | Criminal Defense

Predictive policing is a controversial process by which arrest data is entered into a computer. This data tells the computer where arrests have happened, what those arrests were for and other details of this nature.

The computer then looks at the historical data and decides where crime is likely to happen in the future. Police have even used this to drive to those locations in advance, thinking that their mere presence may be able to stop the crime.

How could this be discriminatory?

The system was touted as fighting against racism and other types of discrimination when it was started. Since the computer was telling the police where to go, it was assumed that this would remove any racial bias or socioeconomic bias. The computer does not naturally discriminate in the same way that police officers sometimes do.

The reason this is controversial, though, is that the initial data that the computer gets still comes from the human police officers. If a police officer targets a certain type of individual or a certain neighborhood, that could be reflected in their arrest statistics. The computer will then tell them to return to that area more often and make more arrests. In essence, the algorithm amplifies the discrimination the officers are putting into the system.

For instance, some studies have discovered that African Americans are five times as likely to be stopped by the police and twice as likely to be arrested as white Americans. This suggests some level of bias is already taking place. This is also concerning because this arrest data is what’s going to train the computer regarding who is going to commit a crime and where it’s going to happen.

Over time, this just makes the situation worse. It specifically points police officers toward these individuals who are already being arrested at such high rates. It also creates a vicious cycle where every new set of data helps to amplify these biases until the entire system is discriminatory. There are many who believe that predictive policing should never be used on these grounds.

Have you been arrested?

If you’ve been arrested and you believe you were unfairly profiled or that the police even took illegal action during that arrest, make sure you are fully aware of all of your defense options and legal rights.