Former LAPD Chief Predicts The Future Of Policing
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Bill Bratton is the former chief of police in Los Angeles, as well as Boston and New York. He helped introduced the system of predictive policing, and calls it the next era of crime prevention, and an evolution of community policing. Chief Bratton's now chairman of Kroll, a risk consulting company, and he joins us on the phone this morning. Thanks very much for being with us, chief.
BILL BRATTON: It's good to be with you, as always.
SIMON: And what do you say to those who worry that predictive policing might have the effect of redlining certain neighborhoods as crime problems, and put them under what amounts to permanent armed patrol?
BRATTON: I just don't see that concern, being quite frank with you, that that should be a concern. We commonly do that in policing now. It's the whole concept of policing that we developed in the 1990s. The Constat(ph) system was basically identify where crimes occurring, when it's occurring, put your police in there, develop effective tactics to deal with your dealing with, and eliminate the problem. so, predictive policing is effectively just an amplification of that, allowing us to use a lot of the modern computer systems that have now been developed - the algorithms that are being developed. It is hot-spot policing, significantly enhanced by technology.
SIMON: Does it practically mean that a perfectly innocent citizen walking down a street might get stopped because they're in a certain neighborhood?
BRATTON: No, not at all. That there are very specific constitutional guidelines as to who to stop, question and frisk. And oftentimes, we hear the term stop and frisk, and over the last few years, the terms have just become as if this is one action that occurs every time a police officer engages a citizen.
SIMON: Do you have to tell citizens at the same time to put the resources where your algorithms and other predictors say they're needed? Do you have to divert resources from other areas?
BRATTON: That's policing in America today. That's policing in the world. There are not enough police to put them everywhere, all at the same time. And indeed, that is the way policing in America has worked. Certainly every police department I've ever led I put police where they are needed. If I had enough that I could, I'd love to. But I don't know if there's a police department in America that can afford to just have cops riding around waiting for something to happen when things are happening in areas where they're desperately needed.
SIMON: Something I'm curious about, Chief Bratton: As we certainly both know, gangs have been not only especially enterprising, but resourceful, and they have deep pockets. So, can't they, with the benefit of a laptop and a couple of smart people make some of the same predictions that a police department would, and plan some of their criminal activities for areas where they have good reason to think that police departments won't be covering them?
BRATTON: No, because policing will always be unpredictable and (unintelligible). We are certainly going to assign resources from time to time to areas where there is actual crime occurring; crime waves occurring, or where increasing capabilities tell us that they may occur. But there's always in policing a significant amount of randomness on patrol. Officers that are responding to a call in one neighborhood passing through another. Officers commuting back and forth to their homes. The unpredictability of policing certainly works very much in our favor. And the reality is that most of these gangs (unintelligible) the gangs that tends to commit most of the violence don't have that level of sophistication and don't have that capability. And even if they are some of the more significant gangs, such as some of the drug cartels, the idea of trying to predict where the police are using tools that are available to the police, trying to predict where the criminals are, I just don't see it working in the opposite direction, if you will.
SIMON: We also have to ask you, chief, about something else in the news this week. The University of California, Davis announced that you will lead the independent investigation of pepper spraying of student protesters by the campus police there.
BRATTON: That's correct. My firm, Kroll, has been retained by the school. We'll have a team out there starting next week to work school officials on an investigation of the incident itself. We are not conducting an internal affairs investigation. We're certainly not conducting a criminal investigation. This is an administrative review at the request of the school of the actions that led up to, and the events that occurred during the spraying incident.
Recognizing that the investigation is ahead, when do you think the use of pepper spray is proper?
Well, it varies in terms of from municipality to municipality, state to state. Indeed, even university to university. So what we will have to look at is what are the protocols in place at the university, at Davis, in terms of what instructions do their police operate under; what guidelines, what training have they received, who's authorized to use it. Those will all be elements of the review that we will be doing.
SIMON: Bill Bratton, chairman of Kroll, the risk consulting company. Thanks so much for being with us, chief.
BRATTON: It's a pleasure being with you. Thank you so much.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.