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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

We Can't Tech Our Way Out of Policing

My colleague Sean Kennedy and I have been running a monthly discussion forum on Policing Los Angeles, that has provided an opportunity for the police, community activists, academics, and criminal justice professionals to come together to discuss policing policy in Los Angeles, one of the global centers of the good, the bad, and the innovative in policing. We've been discussing police technology a lot.

As an extension of the discussions we've been promoting around policing, I had the pleasure to participate in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Civilian Oversight Commission's conference on Community Policing in Los Angeles: A Vision for the Future. The panel discussed: "When should the use of technology by law enforcement meet a stop sign?"

High tech policing focuses on what the police are worst at: solving crimes. We've known for a long, long time that the police are good at solving really obvious crimes that occur right in front of them—traffic offenses, jaywalking, and so on—and less good at solving crimes where they have to investigate and rely on witnesses. It turns out that if police do what they are good at—handing out tickets to traffic violators—that affects us directly. We don't want the police to police *us*: we want them to police the crimes that other people do, or to deal with *serious* crimes (itself a problematic definition).

We also know that the police are only okay at deterring crime, COMPSTAT, hot-spots policing, pulling levers policing, shotspotter, CCTV, and drones notwithstanding. A much better way of preventing crime is to provide jobs, education, and other opportunities. Crime is a feature of a state failure, whether the state is a centralized economy or a neo-liberal market. The police, unfortunately, have to bear the brunt of that failure.

Finally, some of the essential services provided by the police are non-criminal. We want the police to enforce public nuisances that are often regulated by administrative rules. Or we want the police to settle a minor dispute. And we want the police to respond quickly to emergency situations to help us out when we are in trouble.

The tech "revolution" in policing does nothing to transform these basic features of policing. Technology may make crime detection or prevention a little more effective. At the same time, it may deepen inequality within and between communities, undermining social networks, and creating feedback loops that increase scrutiny for some people, and engenders "legal estrangement." But technology does nothing to transform the underlying features of policing: that it is about relations between human beings: state officials on the one hand, and the public on the other.

The major resource in policing is people not technology. To solve a crime, the police need to be able to engage with witnesses. To maintain order, and respond to emergencies, the police need human personnel, not sonic detection devices, body worn cameras, and the like. There is a role for all of these in the discussion of policing, but by emphasizing the role of technology as a crime-fighting device, we afford a disproportionate amount of money, energy, and rhetorical space to one of the least impactful areas of policing.

Technology can help in first responder roles. It may help in the core police function of public order. If the technology and policing discussion wants to be relevant to the life of the communities over which it is deployed, however, the technology revolution should aid what the police are good at, not exaggerate the importance of their other roles.


Posted by Eric Miller on October 16, 2018 at 01:05 PM | Permalink


Worth to read another illustration , titled as :

" Boston police to expand use of body cameras after Northeastern report shows they boost trust, lead to fairer trials "


Of course it does demand more developments ahead , yet , it does bear some potential one must admit .


Posted by: El roam | Oct 16, 2018 4:19:28 PM

Interesting , but bit too skeptical to assume ( among others ) that :

" technology does nothing to transform the underlying features of policing: that it is about relations between human beings: state officials on the one hand, and the public on the other."

This is because of plenty of cases , where body camera , could reveal wrongdoing of police officers at the field . That is to say , that it may deter finally police officers , from maliciously or recklessly , implicate innocent ( or not ) citizens . Finally , it may improve the public trust in the police work , and rebuild confidence in time .

I know even about a case , where no less than over 100 charges , have been withdrawn due to new technology in use . Surly may also , improve admissibility issues in court .

Here one negligible illustration , bearing the title :

" Police body cam footage 'shows officer planting drugs' "

here :



Posted by: El roam | Oct 16, 2018 3:55:31 PM

First we need to get rid of entrapment, qualified immunity, and asset forfeiture. The exclusionary rule is a great start, but it's nothing if there's still qualified immunity.

Posted by: File Got Corrupted | Oct 16, 2018 2:27:57 PM

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