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Predictive Policing and Reasonable Suspicion

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson

University of the District of Columbia - David A. Clarke School of Law

May 2, 2012

62 Emory Law Journal 259 (2012)

Predictive policing is a new law enforcement strategy to reduce crime by predicting criminal activity before it happens. Using sophisticated computer algorithms to forecast future events from past crime patterns, predictive policing has become the centerpiece of a new smart-policing strategy in several major cities. The initial results have been strikingly successful in reducing crime.

This article addresses the Fourth Amendment consequences of this police innovation, analyzing the effect of predictive policing on the concept of reasonable suspicion. This article examines predictive policing in the context of the larger constitutional framework of “prediction” and the Fourth Amendment. Many aspects of current Fourth Amendment doctrine are implicitly or explicitly based on prediction. Search warrants are predictions that contraband will be found in a particular location. Investigative detentions are predictions that the person is committing, or about to commit, a crime. Fourth Amendment concepts like “probable cause,” “reasonable suspicion,” informant tips, “drug courier profiles,” “high crime areas” and others are based on evaluating levels of probability that criminal activity will occur or is occurring. Predictive policing both fits within this established tradition and also challenges it in novel ways. This article concludes that under current Fourth Amendment doctrine predictive policing will have a significant effect on reasonable suspicion analysis, a reality that necessitates a careful understanding of the technology.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 67

Keywords: Fourth Amendment, reasonable suspicion, predictive policing, predictive, criminal procedure, probable cause, constitutional law

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Date posted: May 2, 2012 ; Last revised: February 12, 2014

Suggested Citation

Ferguson, Andrew Guthrie, Predictive Policing and Reasonable Suspicion (May 2, 2012). 62 Emory Law Journal 259 (2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2050001

Contact Information

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson (Contact Author)
University of the District of Columbia - David A. Clarke School of Law ( email )
4200 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
United States
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