“MINORITY REPORT” now fact, not fiction — in New York City

world police

In Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report,” the authoritarian system in place to predict crime and catch individuals before they commit crimes is dystopian fantasy. In the mind of New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton, this story is part of today’s reality, one the NYPD is fueling through experiments with predictive policing.

Bratton participated in a panel hosted by The New York Times, which was called, “Data Mining the Modern City.” During the panel, Bratton referred to the film adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg. “The ‘Minority Report’ of 2002 is the reality of today.”

The commissioner called predictive policing the next phase of American policing, which the NYPD will be a leader in implementing through the data mining of “huge amounts of information” and the development of “algorithms that will effectively mine that data in a way that the human brain cannot.”…

As journalist Raven Rakia explained in Medium on July 22, “Using past crime data to justify occupying specific neighborhoods with police officers, the system simply tracks past arrests of minor property offenses and contributes nothing to predicting or preventing violent crimes such as murder. These surveillance tools help make broken windows policing easier to implement in poor neighborhoods, but won’t actually make the community any safer.”

First introduced by George Killing and James Q. Wilson in an essay in The Atlantic in 1982, Bratton developed broken windows policing too. It is the theory that crackdowns on petty crime will prevent increases in violent crimes in a neighborhood.

One key problem, as Rakia has described, is that it treats human beings as property…

Given the racism underlying the theory of broken windows policing, it is impossible not to fear that predictive policing is driven by a similar set of prejudice. However, Bratton is not one bit concerned about the NYPD abusing its authority in a prejudicial and intrusive manner. In fact, during the panel, he bluntly stated, “There are no secrets.”

“If two people share a piece of information, it is no longer a secret,” Bratton suggested. “And whether you want that second person to know that information or not, the likelihood is that they are going to get it.”

Such statements represent a flippant attitude toward the right to privacy and toward communities disproportionately impacted by policing…

In other words, the data used to predict crimes reflects the priorities of a police department. It also means some areas of a city become occupied territories where police conduct intense patrols while other areas are ignored by police.

How officers decide what streams of data are reliable inherently depends on the set of prejudices with which officers carry out their day-to-day policing of neighborhoods. With those prejudices, predictive policing becomes an authoritarian system for treating citizens like potential insurgents, who could threaten the stability of a military occupation.

And this is how our imperial government treats the rest of the world. Just as the Brits did in their day as “cops of the world” – treating Gandhi as a gang leader who needed to be suppressed for “the good of the whole world”.

The stellar example for me is the obedient agitprop we are fed every day about Cyber Espionage. Usually China, but, often Russia, any former Eastern European nation with a tech industry – all the way down to script kiddies in mom’s basement in California – are rolled out into cookie cutter news releases as the greatest danger to commerce and privacy. All while we live in the belly of the beast which has dedicated more funds and troops to cyber-spying than any other in the history of the world.

It was Ronald Reagan who dedicated the leadership of spying on the citizens of the world to the NSA. Every president since has increased budgets, expanded the mandate to include every citizen of every nation. Just like Bill Bratton, our loss of freedom and privacy is justified by “protecting our privacy and freedom”.

Hypocrites and liars all.

Thanks, Om

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