As the nationwide anti-police brutality protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd continue throughout the streets of America, we are starting to see the beginnings of change on the legislative level. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, recently introduced police reform-focused legislation that would mandate several federal agencies to examine and confront law enforcement entities’ use of force.
The Promoting Fair and Effective Policing Through Research Act would authorize millions in funding between 2021 and 2026 to support the following efforts to:
- Direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to expand its investigations and standards development efforts around biases in biometric identification and facial recognition tech
- Require the Homeland Security Department to help minimize excessive use of force in police response
- Enable new research into policing policies and practices supported and spearheaded by the National Academies and National Science Foundation
The legislation begins with stating that the U.S. does not presently have accurate data to fully understand patterns in policing and use of force on civilians. It notes that the best available evidence reveals increased likelihood of law enforcement officials applying force against individuals who are not white, have disabilities or mental health conditions, are members of the LGBT community have low incomes- and people who fall in the intersections of such groups. Johnson further states that Congress and the nation “must study the influence of technology and big data on vulnerable populations and work to root out any biases.”
If the bill is enacted, the National Academies would join up with the National Science Foundation to conduct a study to pinpoint research gaps across current law enforcement policies and practices, and identify which have been shown to reduce the incidence and mitigate the negative consequences of police violence. Then, the organizations would make recommendations to relevant law enforcement agencies on how to best implement effective new solutions.
If passed, this legislation would pose an opportunity as Praescient Analytics is uniquely situated to aid in addressing the data challenge. Praescient’s team is composed of veterans from the U.S. federal and local law enforcement communities who are passionate about utilizing analytic technologies to enhance and support investigative practices. These experienced team members would deliver the technical talent to address the data and create solutions to potentially reduce the use of force and aid in implementing data and technology use into policing.
Furthermore, Praescient analysts previously used software from Kapow and Palantir to examine trends in violence during the 2011 London riots. The technology and methodologies used during this project could be utilized to analyze current police policies and practices and how they could be improved to best serve and ensure the safety of all communities.