January 29, 2024

Wyden and Clarke Press Justice Department to End Funding for Flawed Predictive Policing Systems

Senators Merkley, Padilla, Welch, Fetterman and Markey Join Call to Ensure So-Called ‘Predictive Policing’ Software Cannot be Purchased with Federal Funds Unless Proven to Be Effective, Accurate, and Not Cause Discriminatory Impacts

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., called on the Justice Department to halt federal funding for flawed software that claims to predict where crime will occur, unless it is proven not to discriminate and meets standards for effectiveness and accuracy. 

Senators Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Peter Welch, D-Vt., John Fetterman, D-Pa., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., joined the letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, which was released today. 

The systems in use now often over-predict crime in Black and Latino neighborhoods based on flawed assumptions and simplistic models. 

“Mounting evidence indicates that predictive policing technologies do not reduce crime. Instead, they worsen the unequal treatment of Americans of color by law enforcement,” the members wrote. “The continued use of such systems creates a dangerous feedback loop: biased predictions are used to justify disproportionate stops and arrests in minority neighborhoods, which further biases statistics on where crimes are happening.”

Wyden and Clarke led a letter to the Justice Department in 2021, seeking more information about whether the department funds predictive policing systems. In its reply nearly a year later, DOJ failed to answer nearly all of the members’ substantive questions, admitting it did not know how much federal grant money had been spent on predictive policing systems. 

The members urged DOJ to include an analysis of the accuracy and risks posed by predictive policing systems as part of an upcoming report on AI and law enforcement that President Biden requested of DOJ, along with an inventory of grants for predictive policing systems. 

Read the full letter to Attorney General Garland here.