Professor Andrew Ferguson Quoted in SantaCruz on Predictive Policing
Friday, February 17, 2012
Posted by: Max Rodriguez
Before he went into academia, Ferguson was a public defender in
Washington, D.C. In D.C., he spent a lot of time contesting police stops
in so-called "high crime” areas. The Supreme Court has said running
away from an officer in a "high crime” area is enough reasonable
suspicion for an officer to stop that person. Ferguson, who has been
studying the issue, wonders whether a statistical prediction by police
will similarly influence what constitutes probable cause for a stop or
|Professor Ferguson was quoted in SantaCruz about a new predictive policing program being implemented in Santa Cruz, CA. |
"In a pre-prediction land, if the officer is patrolling that same
area—that garage—and sees two women looking into windows, that’s not
enough to search them,” Ferguson says. "And it’s certainly not enough to
At the heart of Ferguson’s doubts about predictive policing is the
concern that it could endanger fourth amendment liberties. The fourth
amendment protects citizens’ privacy. It says that police need to
establish reasonable suspicion of a crime—probable cause—in order to
conduct a search of a person or that person’s property.
As far are the courts are concerned, Ferguson says, predictive policing
is unprecedented. He warns that Santa Cruzans, as the guinea pigs in
this experiment, should be considering the implications the program
could have on their rights to privacy and freedom from unreasonable
searches and seizures.
"You can imagine in every block that has been so designated with that
nice red circle around it, there are lots of people who live there and
there are lots of people who go about their daily business,” he says,
"and some of those people are going to be doing innocent things that are
going to correspond with what you might think ‘theft from auto’ might
look like. If you’re carrying a screwdriver, are you going to be
searched? If you’re carrying a bag?"
"These are the questions that get raised.”
"There is an innovation here, and it’s not something that should be
thrown out, because no one wants crime in their neighborhoods, everyone
wants the police to be more efficient,” Ferguson says. "You want data
to do things, but you also want controls and checks on that data."
"The officers show up to their morning shifts are told ‘Look, here are
the 10 hot spots to go look at.’ They are not being asked to analyze the
data,” Ferguson says. "They’re doing what they’re told, which is what
they should do, right? So you’re putting a lot of power in the crime
Read the entire article in SantaCruz, "Santa Cruz’s Predictive Policing Experiment." Read more about Professor Andrew Ferguson on his faculty page.