Lawmakers urge DOJ to pull back funding of predictive police tech

A group of Democratic lawmakers is calling on the Justice Department (DOJ) to pause funding for predictive policing technology unless officials show the tech meets accuracy and effectiveness standards.

In a letter released Monday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and a group of five other senators asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to halt all DOJ grants for the predictive policing system until the department can ensure the grant recipients do not use the systems in a “discriminatory” nature.

Predictive policing takes data from a variety of sources for analysis and uses results to make predictions about future crime.

The lawmakers contended these predictive policing systems rely on data that is “distorted by falsified crime reports and disproportionate arrests of people of color,” which can lead to over-predicting crime rates in Black and Latino neighborhoods and under-predicting crime in white neighborhoods.

“Mounting evidence indicates that predictive policing technologies do not reduce crime. Instead, they worsen the unequal treatment of Americans of color by law enforcement,” the members wrote.

“The continued use of such systems creates a dangerous feedback loop: biased predictions are used to justify disproportionate stops and arrests in minority neighborhoods, which further biases statistics on where crimes are happening.”

Citing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the members contended it is “unlawful” for programs that use DOJ funds to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin. The members asked the DOJ to ensure the systems are in compliance with this statute and provide an analysis of the accuracy and risks of the systems.

The letter comes more than two years after Wyden and Clarke sent an initial letter to the Justice Department over whether the department funds these systems. Wyden claimed the DOJ’s reply, nearly a year after their inquiry, did not answer the members’ questions in detail about how much federal money goes into this technology.

The DOJ at the time acknowledged it kept no “specific records” on which agencies have used federal funding for predictive policing systems.

The Hill reached out to the DOJ for comment.

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