Police State/Civil Liberties

Florida Cops Sued for Hassling People Over Crimes They Might Commit in the Future

By J.C. Tuccille, Reason

Predictive policing—a concept seemingly pulled straight from the 2002 popcorn flick Minority Report—has become increasingly hot with law enforcement agencies over the past decade. The field tempts budget-minded officeholders and cops alike with its science-y promise to forecast where crimes will occur in the future and who will commit them, targeting risk while minimizing wasted resources. But it also holds the potential to justify hassling people based on what a computer program and biases entered as data say they might someday do. That’s the basis of a recent lawsuit charging that a Florida sheriff’s department has used predictive policing to harass the innocent.

“Predictive policing is the use of analytical techniques to identify promising targets for police intervention with the goal of preventing crime, solving past crimes, and identifying potential offenders and victims,” according to a 2013 RAND Corporation report. Even in those early days of the field, though, the report acknowledged that “[t]he very act of labeling areas and people as worthy of further law enforcement attention inherently raises concerns about civil liberties and privacy rights.”


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