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Predictive policing technology raises civil rights concerns

In previous posts, we’ve looked at the emerging issue of facial recognition technology in law enforcement, and the constitutional issues it may raise for criminal suspects. As we noted in those posts, the technology law enforcement has at its disposal is constantly changing, constantly improving, and the threats to privacy are therefore ongoing.

The Washington Post recently ran a story about the emerging use of technology police are using to predict the occurrence of criminal activity. The technology and its use to fight crime is generally known as “predictive policing,” and it is increasingly being adopted by police departments nationwide. 

The software, which uses special algorithms to predict where and when crime will occur, and who might be an offender or victim, holds a lot of promise in terms of crime, but also presents potential concerns from a criminal defense standpoint. Whether used on the streets, in neighborhoods, or on the Internet such technology raises questions about how it will impact the criminal process.

Several issues that have been raised are the effectiveness and accuracy of the technology, racial profiling and potential search and seizure issues. The mathematics behind the technology is not publicly known, and there are concerns that it may end up unfairly targeting law enforcement in minority communities. From a civil rights perspective, then, there are concerns.

In criminal law, regardless of what technology officers or agents use to gather evidence of criminal activity, they must meet the required legal threshold of probable cause before making an arrest and reasonable suspicion before conducting a stop-and-frisk style search. Police must also generally obtain a warrant before conducting a search. When law enforcement fails in its duties, it is important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to seek appropriate remedies in court. 

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