The killing of George Floyd last April sparked renewed scrutiny of racist policing. As activists marched accross the U.S. protesting Floyd’s death, 1,400 researchers signed an open letter to stop police use of predictive policing technology, which mainly targeted Black and Brown youth. Some cities banned its use while others embraced more technologies. Sarah Bayne, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin details the use of predictive technology in her book, “Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing,”
Bayne conducted fieldwork with the Los Angeles Police Department, riding along as police used software from Palantir, PredPol, and other companies. Police would check plate numbers to determine “who else was connected to the victim, even if there was no other evidence linking them to a crime” according to theintercept.com. Police would fly helicopters overhead 50 to 90 times per week, which they called “ghetto birds”.
Palantir Gotham technology merges data from crime and arrest reports, automated license plate readers, rap sheets, and other sources. PredPol generated predictive “boxes,” or hot spots, where property crimes like burglaries and auto theft are likely, When Bayne raised the issue an employee in the Los Angeles County Chief Information Office declared bluntly, “Consent is anachronistic.” “They catch bad guys during every training class,” said a sergeant.
The militarization of police has accelerated even more since the 1960s. Now U.S. cities have armored vehicles, night vision viewers, and bayonets. “That’s a very visible manifestation of the militarization of policing,” said Bayne. “But something that’s more invisible is this creep of surveillance software into the daily operations of policing.” Starting this month, one of the nation’s major military contractors is outfitting Los Angeles County Sheriff Dept.’s patrol cars with sophisticated equipment. All the vehicles at Sybil Brand Institute will be outfitted.
NNV News Blog Writer Sister Rose Morris