STORY: "Why Oakland Police Turned Down Predictive Policing," by Emily Thomas, published by Motherboard on December 28, 2016.
GIST: "Tim Birch was six months into his new job as head of research and planning for the Oakland Police Department when he walked into his office and found a piece of easel pad paper tacked onto his wall. Scribbled across the page were the words, “I told you so!” Paul Figueroa, then the assistant chief of Oakland Police, who sat next door to Birch, was the culprit. A few months before, in the fall of 2014, Birch had attended a national conference for police chiefs where he was introduced to PredPol, a predictive policing software that several major cities across the US have started to use. It can forecast when and where crimes may occur based on prior crime reports, but the results of its impact on crime reduction have been mixed. Birch, a former police officer in Daly City, thought it could help Oakland’s understaffed and underfunded police force. During the January 2015 budgeting planning process he convinced Mayor Libby Schaaf to earmark $150,000 in the city’s budget to fund the software over two years. But Figueroa was skeptical of the technology. An Oakland native and 25-year veteran of the force, he worried the technology could have unintended consequences—such as disproportionately scrutinizing certain neighborhoods—and erode community trust. Figueroa and Birch had spirited discussions after the January budget proposal about why it wouldn’t work in a city with a sordid history of police and community relations, including several misconduct scandals. Birch finally came around to Figueroa’s thinking in April 2015 after further research and a newfound understanding of Oakland. He realized the city didn’t need to give its people another reason to be suspicious. It was too easy for the public to interpret predictive policing as another form of racial profiling. He decided to rescind his funding request from Schaaf, telling her the OPD would not be using the software. That’s when Figueroa put the note on his wall. “Maybe we could reduce crime more by using predictive policing, but the unintended consequences [are] even more damaging… and it’s just not worth it,” Birch said. He said it could lead to even more disproportionate stops of African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities. The Oakland police’s decision runs counter to a broader nationwide trend. Departments in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Chicago are turning to predictive policing software like PredPol as a way to reduce crime by deploying officers and resources more effectively. A 2013 PredPol pilot in Atlanta was one of the first key tests of the software. According to a 2014 national survey conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based think tank made up of police executives, 70 percent of police department representatives surveyed said they expected to implement the technology in the next two to five years. Thirty-eight percent said they were already using it at the time. But Bay Area departments are raising questions about the effectiveness and dangers of relying on data to prevent crime. San Francisco currently has no plans to use predictive policing technology. Berkeley does not either. Just north of Oakland, the Richmond Police Department canceled its contract with Predpol earlier this year and to the south, the Milpitas Police Department cut its ties with the software maker back in 2014. These authorities say the software may be able to predict crime, but may not actually help prevent crime because knowing when a crime may occur doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of stopping it. Critics of the software also argue it perpetuates racial bias inherent in crime data and the justice system, which could lead to more disproportionate stops of people of color. But police departments who support using PredPol say police presence in these predicted crime zones can potentially deter crime..."
The entire story can be found at:
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/