Despite vocal public opposition, our police department is moving ahead with acquiring the software, and our elected officials say there’s nothing they can do to stop Chief Cook.
We know better. We demand that Mayor Kelli Linville suspend the process of acquiring predictive policing software now.
The software will use the department’s past crime data to help the police identify neighborhoods where they should concentrate patrols. According to the department:
“Predictive policing software tries to harness the power of information, geospatial technologies and evidence-based intervention models to reduce crime and improve public safety. This two-pronged approach—applying advanced analytics to various data sets, in conjunction with intervention models—can move law enforcement from reacting to crimes into the realm of predicting what and where something is likely to happen and deploying resources accordingly.”
Our concern: Bad data in, bad data out. Plugging in data collected through biased policing will lead police to increase their patrols of the communities unfairly affected by bias.
This is not about Bellingham police being good or bad cops. We do not have the data to determine whether Bellingham police racially profile more or less than other law enforcement agencies – because our police department does not currently collect sufficient data.
What we do know is that racial profiling happens everywhere, and that it is bad in Washington State.
A 2011 state-funded study found that in Washington, “race and racial bias matter in ways that are not fair, that do not advance legitimate public safety objectives, that produce disparities in the criminal justice system, and that undermine public confidence in our legal system.”
This study debunked the myth that people of color are incarcerated at disproportionate rates because they commit more crimes. It showed instead that bias distorts decision-making throughout the criminal justice system.
When Police Chief Cook says that neighborhoods with people of color are policed more because that’s where more crimes are committed, he’s wrong. They are neighborhoods where his department’s existing data say more crimes are committed.
Mayor Kelli Linville and Police Chief Clifford Cook already know this. Members of BASOW, Racial Justice Coalition, and other community groups have met with them multiple times in 2015 to present concerns. Instead of engaging with the solutions we propose, the mayor and the Bellingham Police Department is moving ahead with software that threatens to entrench racial profiling, digitally.
Tell the mayor to stop predictive policing software from coming to Bellingham, and engage instead with community concerns.