Chicago Police Algorithm Attempts to Predict Shooters, Victims
In a move that is raising racial profiling fears, Chicago Police are now using a computerized algorithm to decide where officers should patrol, according to The Chicago Tribune. The formula takes information about criminal history and involvement in shootings in order to generate a score that indicates how likely people are to be perpetrators or victims of violent crime. The Chicago Police Department is currently focusing on residents with scores over 400—that is, people who the algorithm predicts to be over 400 times more likely to be involved in a violent crime. This list of high-scoring individuals is known as the “strategic subject list.”
The department then meets with the people on the list to try to prevent them from killing, or being killed. The theory, according to The New York Times, is that a relatively small number of people are responsible for most of the violent crime in the city. The trick is identifying who they are. During the meetings, which police call “custom notifications,” police officers inform subjects that they are under intense police scrutiny. At the same time, social workers offer assistance with housing and drug rehabilitation in an effort to provide gang members with a way out of a dangerous life.
Civil Liberties Groups Worry List May Be Racial Profiling Tool
The department has been running the program for over three years. The program has come in for criticism from several different directions. There have been over 330 homicides this year to date, which is an increase of over 40%. At this rate, there will be over 600 homicides this year. It’s not just the list’s effectiveness that is raising concerns. Some groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, are concerned that the algorithm used to generate the scores may give disproportionately high scores to racial minorities or residents of high-crime neighborhoods. This, in turn, could lead to disproportionate police scrutiny on the basis of race or geography. The department defends the program, arguing that over 20% of the subjects they visited requested some kind of assistance, and that fewer than 10% were victims of violence after the visits.
Illinois Law Prohibits Racial Profiling
The Illinois Criminal Code of Procedure of 1963 lays out the law for police officers on arrest, search and seizure. In general, a police officer may arrest someone if they have:
Chicago Algorithm Could Be Unconstitutional Racial Profiling
Although the Chicago Police Department has performed mass arrests of gang-related suspects, the “custom notification” meetings are not searches, seizures or arrests. This means that they do not require a search warrant or reasonable grounds for the officers to believe that the subject has committed a crime. Because the officers are requesting permission to enter homes or speaking to the subjects outside, the officers don’t need a warrant to justify forced entry. However, if the police department did use the algorithm or list to decide who to arrest without a warrant, this would be a due process violation: the rule requires that the officer have reasonable grounds to believe that the person is committing or has committed a crime, not that they will commit a crime in the future. Likewise, if the algorithm was based entirely on race, and officers were to use it in deciding whom to detain, this would be a violation of the suspect’s constitutional rights. But even if race were one factor in the algorithm, it might still survive a court challenge.
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