LAPD Officials Promise Review of Tech-Based Policing Methods

LOS ANGELES (CN) – After months of pressure from police accountability advocates, the Los Angeles Police Department will review its use of data and technology-driven policing methods.

The Board of Police Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to audit LAPD’s predictive policing programs Predpol, Los Angeles Strategic Extraction and Restoration program (LASER), and the Suspicious Activity Program (SAR).

Commissioner Shane Murphy Goldsmith introduced the motion, which was backed by outgoing Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill.

Goldsmith said the audit will review the effectiveness of the programs and determine what impact they’ve had specifically on communities of color in Los Angeles.

Some of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country use so-called predictive policing programs to forecast where and when crime will occur in their communities.

Departments also use crime data, gathered from algorithm-based and artificial intelligence-driven technologies, to determine which individuals are most likely to commit or recommit crimes.

Those technologies, while seen by police as objective tools, have come under scrutiny by advocates.

At the commissioners meeting Tuesday, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition member Hamid Kahn said the programs give police a “license” to profile based on race and anything short of dismantling the programs would be “smoke and mirrors.”

The coalition’s May 8 report on the programs, “Before the Bullet Hits the Body,” found 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 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, according to the report.

LAPD data on 387,000 arrests for the same time period show 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.

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.

LASER plugs data from field interview cards collected by officers and information from arrest reports into a program called Palantir. The program then identifies “hotspots” where crime is likely to occur.

Palantir mines government and private company databases to build extensive profiles of individuals then creates a list of people police have identified as “persons of interest.” The list is not available to the public.

LAPD has produced more than 800 Chronic Offender Bulletins, according to the report.

The board also approved a separate motion Tuesday by McClain-Hill to review and modify the bulletins.

McClain-Hill said she has serious reservations about the lists and is “of the mind that they should be discontinued.”

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

It also wants a list of individuals listed in bulletins and an explanation of how individuals can contest their inclusion on the list.

LAPD Inspector General Mark P. Smith’s audit report is expected January 2019.


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