LAPD moving away data-driven crime programs over potential racial bias

Mark Puente in The Los Angeles Times: “The Los Angeles Police Department pioneered the controversial use of data to pinpoint crime hot spots and track violent offenders.

Complex algorithms and vast databases were supposed to revolutionize crime fighting, making policing more efficient as number-crunching computers helped to position scarce resources.

But critics long complained about inherent bias in the data — gathered by officers — that underpinned the tools.

They claimed a partial victory when LAPD Chief Michel Moore announced he would end one highly touted program intended to identify and monitor violent criminals. On Tuesday, the department’s civilian oversight panel raised questions about whether another program, aimed at reducing property crime, also disproportionately targets black and Latino communities.

Members of the Police Commission demanded more information about how the agency plans to overhaul a data program that helps predict where and when crimes will likely occur. One questioned why the program couldn’t be suspended.

“There is very limited information” on the program’s impact, Commissioner Shane Murphy Goldsmith said.

The action came as so-called predictive policing— using search tools, point scores and other methods — is under increasing scrutiny by privacy and civil liberties groups that say the tactics result in heavier policing of black and Latino communities. The argument was underscored at Tuesday’s commission meeting when several UCLA academics cast doubt on the research behind crime modeling and predictive policing….(More)”.