Buting ,Williams & Stilling ,S.C. | A Criminal Defense Law Firm

Call Today for a FREE Consultation


Is data-driven policing just tech-based stereotyping?

by | Jul 5, 2018 | Criminal Defense

With constant calls for police to stop racial profiling, law enforcement agencies want concrete, race-neutral information to help them target people based on their behavior alone. Many officers believe that a small number of people are responsible for the majority of non-drug street crime. Identifying those people could be crucial to keeping crime down.

Police might once have hauled in “all the usual suspects,” but arresting people without probable cause is unconstitutional. Plus, “the usual suspects” were often simply people of color with whom the police had already had contact.

Today, some departments are experimenting with data-driven policing. The name sounds good, but does it just lend a scientific veneer to something that isn’t really new?

Data-driven policing commonly involves plotting crimes on a map and cross-referencing them with variables such as traffic offenses and the locations of known offenders. It can also involve collecting publicly available personal data and using algorithms to predict crime.

There are a number of privacy, ethical and constitutional questions to be answered, but does data-driven policing work?

That’s unclear. Consider Los Angeles’s experience. In those LAPD divisions involved in “Operation LASER,” officers receive daily “mission sheets” focused on a specific area they are to target. Real-time crime mapping is used, along with an algorithm meant to predict the locations of potential property crimes.

“These are the hot spots,” one officer explained to NPR. “These are where the crimes tend to happen, this day, this time, based on the crime mapping that we do.”

The mission sheets also contain names and mug shots from the “Chronic Offenders Bulletin,” which lists people in certain neighborhoods that police think are likely to commit crimes. This is based on a point system that considers gang membership and previous criminal justice contacts.

The LAPD’s deputy chief believes Operation LASER works. Crime is far lower than a generation ago, although that’s a long-term trend. What convinces him is that arrest numbers are also down.

“We’re arresting the right people. We’re not out there saturating, we’re not out there picking up people for everything.”

Community members aren’t so sure.

For one thing, the chronic offender score is based partly on contacts with police. That’s simply more likely to happen in neighborhoods that are heavily patrolled, so the system could just be reinforcing existing stereotypes.

Moreover, if data-driven policing has made noticeable changes to police behavior, it’s not obvious. The same people and the same neighborhoods are being targeted.

“If you put in bad data, you’re going to get bad data,” acknowledged the LAPD’s deputy chief.

Do you think data-driven policing is a positive change or does it just lend credibility to the often-biased information police were already relying on?

Practice Areas

“I just want to say thank you for the outstanding work you have done for him and let you know how much we appreciate the time and attention you gave to his case. We are obviously overjoyed by today’s dismissal!” (Child pornography case dismissed after motion to suppress was granted)”

“After having had time to exhale, we thank each one of you and all the others who contributed to the exemplary Supreme Court presentation. We are proud of your efforts on our behalf and, equally important, on behalf of the many present and future defendants statewide.” (Client’s comment after Supreme Court oral argument)

“Thank you. Thank you. I am so pleased to hear that we won. It doesn’t seem that it was even a close call. I appreciate your efforts.” (Oconto County defendant after Buting, Williams & Stilling got his prison sentence overturned in the court of appeals) ”

“Your time and advice was appreciated more than words can express at a time when we really needed someone to guide us.” (Client)

“The outcome was amazing, one unavailable even under identical circumstances in probably 98 percent of federal courtrooms around the country. Separate and apart from the outcome, though, I am supremely impressed by your efforts on your client’s behalf. Your comments in support of the requested sentence were perfect in tone and, having now reviewed the extensive sentencing memorandum you filed, your work in that regard was exemplary as well. Your client was certainly fortunate to have you as his attorney.” (Local federal court attorney present at a sentencing)

“I can’t thank you enough, not only for all of the tireless work that you and your staff put into my case, but for telling me what I needed to hear, at a time when I absolutely had to hear it. I consider myself blessed for everything turning out the way it did, especially since I blindly picked you out of a phone book! You helped me, my family and friends in many more ways than the money ever could.” (Child pornography client)

“I think you will find that in any circles where Kathy’s name is raised, people will always respond positively and identify her as an extremely hardworking, knowledgeable and ethical lawyer who is timely and effective with any endeavor she takes on. These circles would include colleagues, friends, prosecutors, judges, professors and others who have crossed paths with Kathy. They would also include the many lawyers like me who have referred numerous cases to Kathy, invariably with positive feedback from the clients regarding her knowledge of their case, empathy, professionalism and fair-mindedness in addressing their concerns.” (Fellow attorney)

“Thank you for giving [our son] back to us. Wonderful work!” (Family of client accused of armed robbery after charges were dismissed)

“Yes, His perfect time and perfect place, you were a part of this plan. I almost didn’t hire you, but I took a step of faith trusting Him and look what happened? Praise God. Our Lord put you in your vocation for a reason, continue to help those He brings your way. May He bless you in ALL you do!” (Client who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a northwestern Wisconsin county. He was released from prison after attorneys got his conviction reversed.)

“I really cannot thank you enough for your past help. You really know your stuff. It is actually funny when I think about my other past attorney’s knowledge and then when I talk with you. It’s like night and day. You’re like a walking book of knowledge with a purpose-driven life. Thanks.” (Brown County client of attorney Buting)

“A year later and I still believe your defense is the single best example of lawyering I have ever seen.” (Television reporter commenting on attorney Buting’s defense of Steven Avery)

“You have a certain brilliance that makes me sure that when you talk, it is good information and I am in good hands. You tell it to me like it is even when the things you say are not always the things that I would like to hear. You keep it REAL!!!” (Brown County client)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like this was one of the biggest blessings that happened in my life. I put this along with my children being born healthy and when I survived that horrific shooting. I appreciate everything you have done for me. I couldn’t ask for better lawyers. I want to say thank you to everybody at your firm. I owe you more than the fee you so rightfully deserve. … You gave me back hope. Thank you, man! Out of my 36 years … I have never seen such kindness before. I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’m very thankful nonetheless. Thank you for giving me hope again. Thank you for your generosity. There are still some really good people around.” (Federal criminal appeal client)

“There is no other attorney I’ve ever even heard of I’d rather have as chief counsel and leader of my defense/appeals than Jerome Buting. You’re the best. Period.” (Dane County client)

“Your advice and counsel were greatly appreciated. We appreciate you taking the time on your Sunday and evenings to help us. We are SO happy about the results! Thanks again.” (Waukesha County client)

“Thank you again … for everything. Five and one-half years of commitment, so many ups and downs and an outcome like that. You did a GREAT job.” (Waukesha County felony drug offense client)