We are writing in response to Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore’s references to the academic support for the LAPD’s Predictive Policing earlier this year and the upcoming announcement of its Precision Policing program.
As university faculty members and graduate students from UCLA and around the country, we are writing to clarify the extent of this support for Predictive Policing and other algorithm based policing programs. We feel compelled to respond to Chief Moore’s comments and the ongoing commitment to Predpol and algorithm based policing.
Jeffrey Brantingham, an archaeological anthropologist and colleague to many of us, has conducted research on crime modeling and predictive policing. He also co-founded Predpol, which was formed in collaboration with LAPD Deputy Chief Sean Malinowski and has, in the past, been contracted by the LAPD to administer its predictive policing program. Professor Brantingham and his co-researchers have drawn on the discipline of anthropology to support their claims about the efficacy of predictive policing.
As an earlier letter sent by scholars in February expressed, to the extent that Professor Brantingham and his UCLA colleagues represent an academic stamp of approval of predictive policing and other algorithm- and location-based methods for Chief Moore, we wish to make it very clear: there is not universal agreement or acceptance of the empirical merit and the ethics of this research in anthropology or in other disciplines.
On the contrary, many anthropologists and other scholars who read his and others’ scholarship on algorithm- and location-based policing believe it represents some troubling legacies of anthropology and the social sciences. Among our concerns, which we can share in more detail, are (1) whether the research meets the ethical obligation outlined in the anthropological code of ethics to ensure our research does not harm the people affected by it, and (2) how its use of historical crime data naturalizes policies and practices that have had disparate impacts on Black and Brown communities.
Academics' concerns about algorithm and location based policing and Predpol in particular are not limited to anthropology. Scholars in law, such as Columbia Professor Bernard Harcourt, math and data science, such as the Harvard-trained mathematician Cathy O'Neill and other disciplines have also expressed their serious reservations about the empirical and ethical rigor of this research.
We appreciate that the LAPD is paying attention to academic literature, and we encourage them to also review the scholarship that raises questions about Predpol, highlights the dangers of all algorithm and location based policing, and asks why crime algorithms, and not accountability, continue to be the priority of departments like the LAPD.
Signed, Melina Abdullah, Cal State LA facultyLaura Abrams, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs faculty Leisy Abrego, UCLA facultySabrina Alimahomed-Wilson, California State University Long Beach facultyMike Ananny, University of Southern California facultyHannah Appel, UCLA facultyCesar Ayala, UCLA facultyDorothea Beane, Stetson College of Law facultyJoseph Berra, UCLA Law School facultyMaylei Blackwell, UCLA facultyEve Brown, University of California Santa Cruz facultyJessica Cattelino, UCLA facultyMatthew Charity, Western New England University facultyDavid Chavez, California State University Los Angeles facultyJohn Cheney-Lippold, University of Michigan facultyAndy Clarno, University of Illinois at Chicago facultySasha Costanza-Chock, Massachusetts Institute of Technology facultyRoderic N. Crooks, University of California, Irvine facultyDana Cuff, UCLA facultyAndrew Culp, Calarts facultyLisa Davis, CUNY School of Law facultyJulia DeCook, Loyola University Chicago facultyDawn A. 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