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Professor Andrew Ferguson Quoted in SantaCruz on Predictive Policing

Friday, February 17, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Max Rodriguez
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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 arrest them.”

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.

Andrew Ferguson

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 search.

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 analysts.”

Read the entire article in SantaCruz, "Santa Cruz’s Predictive Policing Experiment." Read more about Professor Andrew Ferguson on his faculty page.

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