Friday, March 1, 2013

Reducing The Appearance Of Bias By Adopting A Predictive Policing Strategy

There was a story over at the Seattle Times that looked at Seattle Police implementing a program to use predictive policing software as part of a plan to improve their department over the next 20 months.
A complex algorithm, using data that dates to 2008, predicts where crimes are likely to take place on a certain date and time. Officers will be provided forecasts before their shifts, then use their “proactive time” between 911 calls to patrol those areas, officials said.

“Success will be measured in crime that does not occur,” Acting Lt. Bryan Grenon, a leader in the effort, said of the preventive possibilities.
Via The Seattle Times

What I found interesting is that one reason they were adopting predictive policing is reduce allegations of bias based policing by letting crime data drive enforcement activities. While quite a number of agencies have implemented various predictive policing programs, this may be one of the first that addressed the issue of reducing the appearance of bias based policing by relaying on analysis of crime data.

Bias based policing is a threat to the community trust needed for a police agency to have an effective working relationship with the community they serve. Anything an agency can do to reduce the appearance of bias in policing is a good thing.

If SPD is successful, their predictive policing program would have the dual advantage of making their officers more efficient as well as improving the relationship with the community they serve.

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