Over 10,000 Criminal Cases Handled in the Denver Area

Should this criminal enforcement tool be lauded or condemned?

by | May 4, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Who is being asked the question?

That is the logical query to be posed concerning the above blog headline.

Police officials and municipal money managers across the country strongly endorse a particular tool they routinely claim dampens would-be criminal activity and is optimally cost-effective.

As for individuals targeted for close scrutiny pursuant to so-called “predictive policing,” the collective viewpoint is somewhat different.

In fact, perceptions of persons on the receiving end of what is decidedly a 21-century analytical technique are a world apart from what the cops think.

Individuals subjected to constant police probing guided by algorithms and software based on future possibilities of wrongdoing fear predictive policing.

And they flatly condemn it for a host of reasons.

Predictive policing: overview of a controversial process

Consider the following scenario.

You had a nonviolent and one-time scrape with justice authorities as a juvenile. You moved on from that transgression and now lead a productive life, but the past offense continues to trail and – as far as police are concerned – even define you.

To the point: It identifies you as a prime candidate for close watch and repeated police interaction pursuant to a computer program’s assessment that you “might” reoffend in some manner. Law enforcers see their reliance on the identifying technology in predictive analytics as justifiable and as a bona-fide strategy for uncovering potential wrongdoing before it occurs.

Critics – and there are many – see it in a starkly different vein.

Why predictive policing elicits fear and condemnation

The seminal research-and-development think tank RAND Corporation stresses this point about predictive policing in an in-depth report: “[T]he very act of labeling areas and people as worthy of further law enforcement attention inherently raises concerns about civil liberties and privacy rights.”

Critical commentators voice a host of objections when addressing predictive policing. Here are three core complaints:

  • Garbage in, garbage out (a predictive model is only as good as the accuracy of its assessment data/information)
  • Predictive policing arguably stands the time-honored and bedrock principle of probable cause required as a prerequisite for police action on its head
  • Select communities and individual profiles can easily – and unjustifiably – be emphasized in predictive models

The ultimate fear for many concerning predictive policing is stressed in one recent media spotlighting of the tool/process. It notes the common perception that the model and its employment provides “just another excuse for the authorities to hammer those who rub them the wrong way.”