Predictive policing: Yes, critics have a problem with it

How would you feel as an Indianapolis resident if a cop stopped you on a city street and began asking searching personal questions about your mindset and activities?

Notwithstanding the angst you might have if you view that such interaction is not warranted by any suspicious conduct on your part that is reasonably perceivable by the officer, would your discomfort be even further elevated if the alleged probable cause to detain you was based on a mathematical algorithm?

Some readers of our Indiana criminal defense blog might be scratching their heads over that latter question.

Yet there it is, as prominently noted in a recent and probing investigatory piece on so-called “predictive policing” that, while lauded by its proponents, is soundly and broadly condemned by an ever-widening coalition of groups that fear pred-pol’s application in practice.

This relatively new tool comes not from the studied observations of police officers out in the community, coupled with long-proven investigatory processes, but, rather, from computer-generated algorithms that can allegedly pinpoint upcoming — that is, as yet uncommitted — criminal activity.

In other words: Armed with algorithm-driven data, cops are increasingly prowling American cities on the lookout for crime that is noted by mathematical formulae to be a possibility, while targeting very specific locales and demographics.

Proponents call that efficient policing.

Opponents call it something else. A Washington Post probe into the growing practice of predictive policing notes that “the formulas powering the systems are largely a secret,” and that the practice could yield material unfairness in application “by relying on racially skewed policing data.”

Ultimately, pred-pol investigatory tools spell just another enforcement arrow in the already stuffed quiver of law enforcers. Any person with questions or concerns with any police strategy or tactic that has led to an arrest or criminal charge might reasonably want to timely contact a proven criminal defense attorney for guidance and, when necessary, diligent legal representation.