This article discusses the use of information technology by police departments across the United States to increase efficiency. These police departments are beginning to utilize big data and increase their efficiency by using software that makes predictive models, stores traffic accidents in databases, and generates various watch lists. While the use of technology has skyrocketed in both public and private sectors, its introduction to police departments has only recently been introduced. However, while this new technology has allowed police departments to be more efficient, it raises issues of privacy and stereotyping.
The Chicago Police Department uses a computer analysis to make a “heat list” of people who share similar characteristics or behaviors as known criminals. This allows the police department to be more efficient by allowing them to focus on specific people in order to stop them before a serious crime could be committed. However, this “heat list” has been gaining the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union because this computer generated list often associates innocent people with criminal behavior. These innocent people are then placed on the “heat list” and are watched more closely by police, which could quickly lead to issues of stereotyping based on these “criminal behavior” characteristics. Police department’s usage of big data has been scrutinized for reasons such as stereotyping and whether this “evidence” could legally be held up in court. Even companies such as Palantir Technologies, who sells data analysis tools cautions on the hazards of predictive policing and emphasizes that the predictive models follow a strictly understandable logic. Do you think that police departments should be allowed to use big data to create these watch lists? Or do you think it leads to too many issues of privacy and stereotyping?
On the other hand, there are some major pros of police departments utilizing big data. Coplogic, which is a software used by over 5,000 police departments in the United States allows police to be more efficient when filling out accident reports because its database stores information like license plates numbers and is able to pull up a complete record of insurance. Software such as this could be incredibly useful for cities because this database of accidents could identify dangerous traffic spots and make priority predictions on what roads need to be repaired. So not only will software such as Coplogic be able to cut the time it takes for these accident reports to be filled out by police, but it will help to reduce the overall accidents. In cases such as these, do you think it is appropriate for police departments to utilize big data? Where is the line drawn when it becomes too invasive, such as the previous example with the computer generated “heat list”?