Group Created with Sketch.

Technology plays an increasingly important—and sometimes troubling—role in policing.

Predictive policing uses computer technology to anticipate criminal activity, using data such as demographic trends, prior arrests, parolee populations, economic conditions, crime trends, and environmental data.National Institute of Justice, “Predictive Policing,” June 9, 2014. In 2016, 20 of the nation’s 50 largest police departments were using predictive programs such as PredPol, CommandCentral, and HunchLab, and 11 more were considering doing so.David Robinson and Logan Koepke, “Stuck in a Pattern: Early Evidence on ‘Predictive Policing’ and Civil Rights,” Upturn, August 2016.

Criticisms of predictive policing include that it is “open to bias and hard to evaluate” and that successful implementation requires “checks and balances."Aaron Shapiro, “Reform Predictive Policing,” Nature.com, January 25, 2017.  Moreover, indicators such as socio-economic status, geographic location, and prior arrests are often highly correlated with race, which raises concerns about the influence of race in the predictive modeling and whether the algorithms exacerbate existing systemic racial biases.Aaron Shapiro, “Reform Predictive Policing,” Nature.com, January 25, 2017. Controversy also surrounds the refusal of companies and police departments to share information about their data, practices, and algorithms. In August 2017, the Brennan Center for Justice argued in court for greater disclosure about the NYPD’s predictive policing, and in December, the New York City Council passed a bill creating a task force to study how to test these decision-making algorithms for bias.For the Brennan Institute position, see Rachel Levinson-Walkman and Erica Posey, “Predictive Policing Goes to Court,” Brennan Center for Justice, September 5, 2017. For the New York City Council bill, see New York City Council, Int 1696-2017; and Zoë Bernard, “The First Bill to Examine ‘Algorithmic Bias” in Government Agencies Has Just Passed in New York City,” Business Insider, December 19, 2017. Also see Jim Dwyer, “Showing the Algorithms Behind New York City Services,” New York Times, August 24, 2017.

Other technologies include: