Activists Call For an End to LA’s Predictive Policing Program

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A coalition of privacy protection advocates on Tuesday demanded that two Los Angeles Police Department crime predicting programs be dismantled, claiming they disproportionately target those who are low-income or people of color and that they collect data on individuals without consent.

Gathered outside the LAPD headquarters the day of a Board of Police Commissioners meeting, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition members also requested Inspector General Mark Smith audit both programs for potential human and civil rights violations.

While algorithm and artificial intelligence-driven crime predicting programs may be hailed as objective tools, coalition member Jaime Garcia said they reproduce racial biases in policing practices.

Some of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country use predictive policing programs to forecast where and when crime will occur in their communities, sparking intense scrutiny and debate over potential civil liberty and privacy violations.

Both of Los Angeles’ predictive policing programs, the Los Angeles Strategic Extraction and Restoration program (LASER) and Predpol, began in 2011.

LASER uses field interview cards collected by officers and information from arrest reports to identify “hotspots” where crime is likely to occur.

It has produced more than 800 Chronic Offender Bulletins, which is a list of people police have identified as “persons of interest” – although the list is not available to the public.

Coalition member Hamid Khan said the LAPD should inform individuals if they are on the COB so they can contest their listing.

An LAPD report on LASER says it does not inform people that they are on the COB because the list does not formally charge them with any crimes.

Pete White of homeless advocacy group Los Angeles Community Action Network called LASER the “evolution of the broken windows method of policing,” a policing theory that linked public nuisances within a community to a heightened potential for serious crime.

White said the LAPD is attempting to “deracialize” the crime predicting programs by blaming the algorithm for focusing attention on communities of color.

“Racist inputs [results in] racist outcomes,” White said.

LASER draws on technology developed by data giant Palantir, which mines government and private company databases to build extensive profiles of individuals.

LAPD’s second predictive policing program, Predpol, uses historical data from both property and violent crime reports to identify which city blocks are most likely to be the site of crimes.

The military originally developed Predpol to predict insurgent activity during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The coalition’s May 8 report on the programs, “Before the Bullet Hits the Body,” said predictive policing makes it easier for police to justify stopping and searching people in the community. “This is a dangerous perversion and weaponization of ‘responsible suspicion,” the report proclaims.

Due to the surging cost of living and lack of affordable housing stock, low-income residents, who are overwhelmingly also people of color, end up being clustered into areas marked by Predpol as “high crime,” the report said.

Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles member Paula Minor said police reliance on hotspots diverts public funds from communities and makes innocent people and their behaviors more suspicious in the eyes of the police.

“City funds should go to services and programs that make communities less susceptible to crime,” Minor said.

Data on 484,000 pedestrians stopped and questioned by LAPD officers between July 2012 and June 2014 revealed that officers stopped black and Latino residents 33 percent and 46 percent of the time, respectively, while white residents were only stopped 17 percent of the time.

LAPD data on 387,000 arrests for the same time period showed that black and Latino residents were arrested 28 percent and 44 percent of the time, respectively, while white residents were arrested only 18 percent of the time.

In Los Angeles, black residents account for 9 percent of the population while Latino residents make up 47 percent. White residents account for 30 percent.

Gloria Gonzalez, a member of the Youth Justice Coalition said historical data used by Predpol and LASER should not be considered credible because they are rooted in operations – such as arrests tied to gang injunctions – that violated individuals’ rights.

The Youth Justice Coalition tackles racial and gender discrimination in Los Angeles’ criminal justice system.

In March, a federal judge barred Los Angeles from enforcing nearly all of its remaining gang injunctions, ruling that those targeted did not have the opportunity to challenge the injunctions in court – a due process violation.

The coalition wants LAPD to disclose the location of Predpol and LASER-identified hotspots as well as the number of shootings by police in those areas.

It is also asking the LAPD to disclose information on the individuals listed in the COB and to detail how individuals can contest their inclusion on the list.

In addition, the coalition is requesting an independent evaluation of Predpol and LASER.

Shortly after coalition members entered the Board of Police Commissioners meeting to share their demands for the programs, several advocates were removed for disrupting the meeting.

The LAPD said it arrested two coalition members.

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