Against a backdrop of historic unrest and criticism, the institution of policing is at an inflection point. Policing practices, and the police use of technology, are under heightened scrutiny. One of the most prominent and controversial of these practices centrally involves technology and is often called “predictive policing.” Predictive policing is the use of computer algorithms to forecast when and where crimes will take place — and sometimes even to predict the identities of perpetrators or victims. Criticisms of predictive policing combine worries about artificial intelligence and bias, about power structures and democratic accountability, about the responsibilities of private tech companies selling the software, and about the fundamental relationship between state and citizen.
UF Philosophy’s Dr. Duncan Purves, along with his collaborator Ryan Jenkins (Cal Poly) have recently released a preliminary report in connection with their NSF-funded project, “Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Policing: An Ethical Analysis.” The report presents insights from the first year of their project, summarizing the results of multiple interviews with (1) developers of predictive policing technologies, (2) police departments and law enforcement groups who use (or are considering using) these technologies, and (3) policymakers who are thinking about how to regulate the use of these technologies. It can be found on the project website.