News Release

NACDL Releases Major Task Force Report on Data-Driven Policing, Racism, and Bias in the Criminal Legal System

Washington, DC (Sept. 14, 2021) – Today, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) released its latest report – Garbage In, Gospel Out: How Data-Driven Policing Technologies Entrench Historic Racism and ‘Tech-wash’ Bias in the Criminal Legal System. This NACDL report is based on interviews that NACDL's Predictive Policing Task Force conducted around the country and was guided by the Task Force Recommendations that the NACDL Board of Directors formally adopted in October 2020. Information about today’s 2:00 p.m. ET launch event, including how to RSVP, is at the bottom of this news release.

As explained in the report, in recent years, police departments have been turning to and relying on rapidly developing data-driven policing technologies to surveil communities, track individuals and, purportedly, predict crime. These technologies include algorithmic decision-making that departments claim can predict where crime is likely to occur, who will likely commit crime, and who will likely be a victim. These algorithms are thus designed to interrogate massive troves of data gathered in a myriad of ways, using inputs that can range from police-generated crime reports to publicly available social media posts. The outputs are then used to make critical decisions about patrols, or to make life-altering designations of individuals.

The purpose of this Report is to: (1) call attention to the rapid development and deployment of data-driven policing; (2) situate data-driven policing within the racialized historical context of policing and the criminal legal system; (3) make actionable recommendations that respond to the reality, enormity, and impact of data-driven policing; and (4) suggest strategies for defense lawyers in places where data-driven policing technology is employed.

“This Report will contribute profoundly to the national conversation regarding the inhumane, unfair, and destructive impact of racism and bias in policing,” said NACDL President Martín Antonio Sabelli. “As the title of the Report suggests, data-driven policing technologies amplify the effects of systemic racism in policing by collecting data based on racist policing (including, for example, overpolicing of communities of color) and treating that garbage data as gospel for future policing decisions. ‘White-washing’ this biased data does nothing more than give a veneer of respectability and an appearance of neutrality while entrenching problematic practices rooted in racism. The report calls for the abandonment of data-driven policing, wherever possible, and transparency and accountability where such practices have already become entrenched.”

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“For more than two years, NACDL’s Task Force on Predictive Policing conducted research and interviews across the nation, leading to this report and the recommendations and suggested strategies set forth in it,” explained NACDL Task Force on Predictive Policing Chair Cynthia W. Roseberry. “This report works to demystify the practice of data-driven policing to ensure that those engaged in the essential work of combatting systemic racism in the criminal legal system can operate with full information. This report is not only an important addition to the body of scholarship in this area, it will also serve as a vital tool for advocates and defenders alike.”

The Report’s major topics include (1) the history of policing and the economics of punishment, (2) the history of surveillance and the rise of big data, (3) the landscape of data-driven policing, (4) critical analysis of data-driven policing, (5) task force recommendations on data-driven policing technologies, (6) an overview of state and local legislation, (7) an overview of police departments that have suspended or terminated contracts with data-driven policing programs, and more.

NACDL’s Task Force on Predictive Policing is chaired by Cynthia W. Roseberry, with members Hanni Fakhoury, Juval Scott, Robert Toale, and Bill Wolf. The Reporter was Michael Pinard, Professor of Law and Co-Director, Clinical Law Program University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law. And the report’s co-authors are Wendy Lee, Jumana Musa, and Michael Pinard.

Download a PDF of the report: https://www.nacdl.org/datadrivenpolicing


Today’s Report Launch Event

Join NACDL's Fourth Amendment Center in launching its report, Garbage In, Gospel Out: How Data-Driven Policing Technologies Entrench Historic Racism and ‘Tech-wash’ Bias in the Criminal Legal System, today from 2:00 to 3:15 p.m. ET (11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. PT). This event, which will follow the report’s release, will feature opening remarks from NACDL President Martín Sabelli and a panel moderated by Director of the Fourth Amendment Center Jumana Musa. The event panelists include: Cynthia W. Roseberry, Chair of NACDL's Task Force on Predictive Policing; Jarrell E. Daniels, Program Manager of Justice Ambassadors Youth Council at Columbia University's Center for Justice; Kevin Vogeltanz, Attorney, Law Office of Kevin Vogeltanz, LLC; Sheena Lofton, Executive Director of Pasco County Agents for Change and member of People Against the Surveillance of Children and Overpolicing; and Brittany Powell, educator and member of People Against the Surveillance of Children and Overpolicing.

Register to attend the launch event: https://www.nacdl.org/Content/ReportLaunchSignUp

Download a PDF of the report: https://www.nacdl.org/datadrivenpolicing

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Contacts

Ivan Dominguez, NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications, (202) 465-7662 or idominguez@nacdl.org

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.

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