Home News Activists protest LAPD Commission for using statistics to fight crime

Activists protest LAPD Commission for using statistics to fight crime

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Mark Puente
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore Tuesday vowed to modify a program that used data to identify individuals as “chronic offenders,” as scores of activists at a Police Commission meeting denounced the data use as racially biased.

A shouting, overflow crowd of about 100 protesters called on the commission, the civilian panel that oversees the LAPD, to stop the agency from using the data-driven policing to reduce violence.

Civil liberties groups argue that the statistics compiled by officers that fuel the computer models could be skewed by racial bias and result in unfair policing of blacks and Latinos.

As chants of “shut it down” interrupted the meeting, Moore vowed to make changes to the controversial programs when he presents the agency’s response on April 9.

In a long-awaited report presented to the commission Tuesday, Inspector General Mark Smith detailed how officers used inconsistent criteria to identify people with criminal histories who are most likely to commit violent crimes. The commission had asked Smith last summer to audit data programs.

“We were aware of the concerns,” Moore said. “We’ve begun by making step-by-step adjustments. I’m thankful that this report has come today.”

But Jamie Garcia, a coordinator with the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, lambasted officials for not giving credit to residents who had for years raised concerns about the programs.

“This started by suing you,” Garcia yelled. “Now we are here. We claim the victory. We, the community, stopped you.”

The commission took no action Tuesday. Instead, it will gather public feedback for two weeks and await Moore’s announcement.

At times, commission President Steve Soboroff warned he would take the meeting behind closed doors if people in the crowd didn’t stop shouting or if they continued to hold up “LASER KILLS” signs, a reference to “Los Angeles’ Strategic Extraction and Restoration” — a data-based program that maps out zones indicating where many crimes have occurred and suggesting where to focus more officers.

The most contentious component allowed each of the department’s 21 geographic areas to use data to compile lists or “bulletins” of people calculated to be among the top 12 “chronic offenders.”

The program assigned people points based on prior criminal histories, such as arrest records, gang affiliation, probation and parole status and recent police contacts. The LAPD suspended the tool in August, after it created an uproar among civil liberties and privacy groups.

The LAPD has a history of using data to help fight crime, Moore said at the meeting.

“Yeah, to kill us,” a woman shouted.

Smith called the chronic offender program one of his “greatest concerns” because officers didn’t provide clear justification to make some stops.

Moore and several commissioners praised Smith and the report.

“The programs need to come out to the daylight,” Commissioner Shane Murphy Goldsmith said. “The commission will be responsive to what we hear from the community.”

Commissioner Dale Bonner wanted to know who managed daily oversight of the programs.

Moore stressed the coming changes and said he would provide answers next month. The agency, he said, is looking at best practices at other departments and checking with academics who study predictive policing.

Several commissioners and activists noted irony in the LAPD’s using expensive, data-driven programs that failed to provide sufficient data for Smith to draw solid conclusions about their overall impact.

“We are not your laboratory to test technology,” the Rev. Stephen “Cue” Jn-Marie said of L.A. minorities.

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