CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Konina on Democratic Accountability and Predictive Policing

Anastasia Konina (University of Montreal - Faculty of Law) has posted Promoting Human Rights in the Context of Police Procurement: A Study of Predictive Policing Instruments (Forthcoming, McGill Graduate Research Series: Law and the City (2021)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Across Canada, human rights activists demand greater democratic accountability of police departments. These demands are a symptom of a serious problem - there is a discrepancy between the goals of policing and the consequences of the police’s actions. This discrepancy materializes when the police’s attempts to ensure public safety result in the marginalization of racialized communities, particularly in larger cities across Canada. To understand why laudable goals lead to deeply problematic consequences, it is necessary to analyze the specifics of modern policing in our cities. This paper relies on the case study of predictive policing instruments to demonstrate that externalities, such as recommendations generated by private technology, play an important role in undermining the goals of policing. Predictive policing instruments analyse different sources of data - police stops data, reported crimes, individual criminal records, and gang databases - to predict potential criminal activity. The use of this technology may violate several provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the guarantees of liberty, due process, and equality.

Due to the increasing reliance of police departments on private technology, democratic control over the exercise of the police’s contracting powers becomes an important, albeit often overlooked, instrument of police reform. This paper argues that communities should condition the funding of police procurement on ex ante technology assessment procedures, technical specifications, and contract enforcement rights. Also, local elected representatives should have an opportunity to approve any data and technology sharing arrangements that extend predictive policing to their communities.

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