LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Los Angeles Police Department said Tuesday it will end the practice of collecting information on individuals deemed most likely to commit crimes and will rehash strategies that concentrate officers in high-crime areas, amid heated debate over the efficacy of the policies.
The practices are part of a host of data-driven policing strategies and artificial intelligence technologies used by the LAPD to forecast where and when crime will occur in communities.
Under Predpol and Operation Los Angeles Strategic Extraction and Restoration, or LASER, officers scan license plates across LA, track and interview so-called chronic offenders, and build crime databases that drive a policing method the department has called objective and critical to public safety goals.
But privacy rights and police accountability group Stop LAPD Spying Coalition has said repeatedly in public testimony – and in their 2018 report titled “Before the Bullet Hits The Body” – the tools make communities unsafe because they rely on data collected through racial profiling and methods that disproportionately target people who are low-income or of color.
A March 8 audit by LAPD Inspector General Mark P. Smith criticized the informal and inconsistent implementation of the tools, finding officers lacked oversight and that the tools often strayed from their stated goals.
At a meeting Tuesday to discuss the report, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, which is tasked with department oversight, backed the scrapping of the tools and pressed department brass for details on when it will make appropriate changes.
Commissioner Dale Bonner – who previously served on a board tasked with oversight of the California Highway Patrol – asked the LAPD why it wouldn’t stop using location-based crime prediction tools until it completed its plan to rehash them.
“Is there a harm in suspending program until they’re evaluated,” Bonner said. “Why not push the pause button?”
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said completely eliminating the use of Predpol would ‘disadvantage” officers.
Moore defended the data and technology-driven concept behind the tools, calling them critical elements of crime-prevention, but said the department will produce a new policing manual that outlines protocols that are “fair and defendable.”
Bonner criticized Moore’s approach, saying it was like “working on your car as it drives down the highway.”
Moore said the department would move away from using ‘terms that undermine the dignity” of residents, such as the term “anchor points” which refers to crime hotspots identified by Predpol.
“Anchor points are not sinking a community,” Moore said, adding he still wants the department to continue analyzing crime hotspots in some way. “If not this, then what? We can’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”
Moore said in an April 5 memo to commissioners that officers will no longer utilize the Chronic Offender Bulletin and will return to policing methods that rely on tracking individuals on parole and those recently released from jail, and conducting interviews with witnesses of crimes.
Smith’s audit found individuals listed on the bulletin had few, if any, actual interactions with officers. Nearly half of the people on the list had never been arrested for gun-related crimes while 44% had zero or only one arrest for violent crimes.
Residents at the meeting criticized the LAPD for not completely scrapping the programs amid mounting public criticism. They said the programs have exposed them to more frequent, violent confrontations with police.
Hamid Khan with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition said the department has constantly launched, scrapped and later rehashed controversial policing programs since its inception instead of listening to community input.
Khan warned Bonner that he would be targeted for asking critical questions of LAPD practices.
“This body is supposed to be a rubber-stamp commission,” Khan said.
University of California, Los Angeles, graduate students at the meeting read from their April 2 letter to commissioners asking them to reject Predpol research the LAPD has used to legitimize its implementation.
In the letter, students said the research isn’t objective since the author, UCLA anthropology professor Jeff Brantingham, co-created Predpol and has evaluated the program’s effectiveness under the auspices of academic research despite being paid by the LAPD.
Commissioners ordered department brass to report back on how it will rehash its utilization of Predpol.