A Taxonomy of Police Technology’s Racial Inequity Problems
65 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2019 Last revised: 2 Feb 2020
Date Written: February 24, 2019
Over the past several years, increased awareness of racial inequity in policing, combined with increased scrutiny of police technologies, have sparked concerns that new technologies may aggravate inequity in policing. In order to evaluate whether or not they do so, however, the problem must be more clearly defined. Some scholars have explored inequity in depth as it relates to specific police technologies. But to date, none have provided an explanation of how police technology aggravates inequity that can be applied across all technologies — including future technologies we have not yet encountered.
This article fills that gap. It offers a proposed new taxonomy that parses the ways in which police technology may aggravate inequity as five distinct problems: Police technology may (1) replicate inequity in policing, (2) mask inequity in policing, (3) transfer inequity from elsewhere to policing, (4) exacerbate inequitable policing harms, and/or (5) compromise oversight of inequity in policing.
Naming and defining these problems will help police agencies, policymakers, and scholars alike analyze proposed new police technologies through an equity lens and craft policies that respond appropriately. To assist with practical application of the taxonomy, this article also offers a model equity impact assessment for proposed police technologies, and explains why the time is ripe for introduction of such an assessment. Finally, the article explains how the proposed taxonomy and impact assessment tool can be used to evaluate new technologies through an equity lens in contexts beyond the criminal legal system.
Keywords: policing, racial justice, surveillance, criminal justice, policy, law
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