Last summer, Robert McDaniel, a 22-year-old man who lived in a high-crime neighborhood in Chicago, received a surprise visit from Barbara West, a Chicago Police Department commander. McDaniel hadn't committed a crime. He didn't have any gun violations. But West had a folder on him. He was on a list. She knew that his best friend had been killed, and she told him that the same thing could happen to McDaniel, who had been arrested multiple times but had only one minor conviction.
That anecdote comes from a story in the Chicago Tribune last summer by Jeremy Gorner. Matt Stroud of The Verge picked it up last week for a story on Chicago's computerized policing system, which offers the hope of slashing crime and prison populations–but also raises difficult questions about privacy and civil liberties.
Stroud reports that Chicago is a national leader in the use of data and technology to fight crime. Oddly, one of the leaders of the effort, who helped the Chicago police win a $2 million grant from the federal government, is director of a medical-imaging research center, with no previous experience in police work.
But who gets put on the so-called "heat list" of suspect future offenders? How is that decision made? Who decides?
Stroud filed a Freedom of Information Act request, seeking to obtain a copy of the list.
The request, he reports, was denied.
An official assured Stroud that the predictive program "isn’t taking advantage of–or unfairly profiling–any specific group."