How Predictive Policing Got A Chicago Man Shot Twice

from the putting-someone-in-peril-in-the-name-of-public-safety dept

The Chicago Police Department is already seriously awful. Its reliance on software to decide who and where to police isn't making it any better. Predictive policing is only as good as the input data, and if the data is being input by police departments with long histories of biased policing, it's only going to generate algorithmic excuses for future biased policing.

Law enforcement officials call predictive policing a game changer. In reality, it appears to be little more than a way to ensure some people -- due to the area they live in or the people they know -- endure endless harassment by law enforcement officers. The ideal is cities being steadily scrubbed of crime by proactive officers. The reality is officers making multiple visits a month to certain homes to issue tickets for uncut grass.

And that's kind of a best case scenario, believe it or not. It can get far worse. The Chicago PD has been using predictive policing software for years and it hasn't given the department better cops or done anything to reduce the violent crime rate. But it has made people miserable. And it has made -- at least in one case examined in depth by Matt Stroud for The Verge -- one Chicago man the target of criminal violence.

Robert McDaniel -- who was one of the first city residents to make the PD's "heat list" back in 2013 -- isn't a violent criminal. In fact, his criminal history consists of nothing more than pot possession and illegal gambling. But he made the list because of where he lives (a Chicago neighborhood in which 10 percent of the city's murders have taken place) and who he knows. But even the cops who informed McDaniel of his presence on the "heat list" weren't sure what to do with this data.

[T]hey told McDaniel something he could hardly believe: an algorithm built by the Chicago Police Department predicted — based on his proximity to and relationships with known shooters and shooting casualties — that McDaniel would be involved in a shooting. That he would be a “party to violence,” but it wasn’t clear what side of the barrel he might be on. He could be the shooter, he might get shot. They didn’t know. But the data said he was at risk either way.

The constant, unwanted contact with Chicago PD officers ensured the latter happened. Criminals and other neighborhood residents assumed he was snitching. Officers frequently stopped by his house or hung around the bodega he worked at. A visit by filmmakers producing a documentary on predictive policing made things worse, raising even more questions about McDaniel and his relationship with the police department.

Those questions got McDaniel shot… twice.

A day or two later, while hanging out at a neighbor’s house a block away from his home, McDaniel says, he got a call from someone who, he says, “was supposed to’ve been a friend.” The friend said they were outside McDaniel’s house and wanted him to come outside and explain it again — what the story was, how he’d gotten on the heat list, why people from CPD had visited his home, why he was now being documented by filmmakers.

McDaniel agreed — but as he headed back to his house, a car pulled up. A man fired multiple shots from inside the car. One hit McDaniel in the knee, and his leg gave out.

Last summer, it happened again.

Near midnight on August 13th last year, he walked into an alleyway a few hundred feet from where shooters nearly killed him years before. It was quiet, a half-block from his home. Checking text messages on his phone, he looked up to see himself ambushed. Two shooters in black, an attempted hit. A surveillance video from that night shows darkened figures walking through an alley, bursts of gunfire. A figure — McDaniel — falls into a brick wall, then slides down to the ground.

To some officers, these shootings might be viewed as proof the "heat list" works. After all, McDaniel has twice been the victim of gun violence, just like the gypsy lady foretold just like the software said he would. Of course, that conclusion conveniently ignores the unending interactions with police officers that gave McDaniel the snitch reputation that got him shot.

Other officers seem a bit more cynical about the heat list's ability to actually pinpoint criminals or crime.

Mocking the opaqueness of the operation and its seeming ineffectiveness, Second City Cop, a local blog written by anonymous Chicago police officers, began referring to the heat list and its team as the “crystal ball unit.”

The "heat list" was finally abandoned in 2019, but not before doing serious, multiple-bullet-wound damage to McDaniel and an untold amount of harm to others before being shut down. Predictive policing soldiers on, though, but it appears the PD is no longer sending officers to harass people simply because they have an increased chance of being a victim of a violent crime.

And the program's end doesn't do anything for McDaniel. People in his neighborhood still apparently believe he's a snitch. The cops may stop by less frequently now that he's no longer interesting, but they kept at it long enough to turn this offshoot of predictive policing into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Filed Under: chicago, chicago pd, police, predictive policing, robert mcdaniel


Reader Comments

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  • icon
    bynkman (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 11:09am

    You are being watched...

    The government has a secret system, a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the Machine to detect acts of terror but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people. People like you. Crimes the government considered “irrelevant.” ... Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You’ll never find us. But victim or perpetrator, if your number is up, we’ll find you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rocky, 3 Jun 2021 @ 11:13am

    I do wonder what this algorithm would spit out if you included the police officers and the result of any interactions they have had with the public...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jojo (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 11:33am

    Those who refuse to learn from the past will end up repeating them. And predictive technology shouldn’t be doing that for us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ceyarrecks (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 11:34am

    Game Changer? Hardly.

    the statement: "Law enforcement officials call predictive policing a game changer." uh. huh. to coin a proverbial phrase: "Same Pig, Different Lipstick." pun intended?
    translation for those whom need it: "same problem, same hatred; just seeming different appearance in which to blame as though the underlying lips where somehow not responsible."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Upstream (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 11:52am

    Are we sure?

    The "heat list" was finally abandoned in 2019. . .

    Is there any reason we should believe this? Even though the cops say so, and maybe they aren't harassing this guy as much as they used to, I am not convinced. As we all know, lying is SOP for cops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 11:53am

    off shoot.

    Look at an incident we have now.
    Checks can be dangerous, if you get one personally. Knowing that number on the bottom, IS YOUR BANK ACCOUNT.
    then we had credit cards, with the number Embossed on the front.
    They erased that number after 40 years of use and 20 of not needed. AND now we have a blank card, that needs NO ID, that you can TAP on a surface and a radio signal sends the info to a machine.

    they also NOW have Chips for security access in buildings, embedded into a part of your body, generally your hand.

    Do any of you have a prediction?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2021 @ 2:31pm

      Re: off shoot.

      a prediction? Like, Koby will rave on at one or another of the week's stories? Like your examples of security failures will be derided as "valid security issues, but irrelevant to the post"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MightyMetricBatman, 3 Jun 2021 @ 1:08pm

    I have a prediction. Well, no, not so much a prediction, as a knowledge that you are an ginormous.

    You are without even a simple Google search would have shown you, identifying the action taken as if they convey the same knowledge.

    The magnetic stripe is infamous because it contains an encoded copy of your credit card.

    That is not what the chip, let alone NFC payments do. Supposedly they are properly encrypted. Is it certain that someone, somewhere will break that security open. Yes.

    But to imply the level of security is similar to identical is pure ignorance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 7:18pm

      Re:

      was leaving out the cheap Metallic Strip on the back, because its not much better then giving away your Check to someone that KNOWS that those numbers are. with a check, and your name and address AND your signature on 1 piece of paper.
      And there are Tons of devices that can read that stripe, and it could be done 30 years ago.
      And sending alittle energy to that chip at short range is nothing to give up your data.

      but you get the idea that if al your data is already out there as is everyone elses. Its not you that has to worry. Its just that the Gov. hasnt cared to enforce the privacy and security we need. AND WE ARNT to blame. YET. Change a few laws and the Citizens, become responsible for it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2021 @ 2:40pm

    Click bait-and-switch

    People who post on social media are the ones we put liability on, not the providers. - Numerous articles re Section 230

    Predictive policing got a person shot. - this article.

    Myself, I think "people who don't want other people talking to police" got the guy shot. Given the fact pattern, the story could equally have been, "guy selling drugs to corrupt cops gets shot twice by neighbors suspecting a snitch", just by substituting the reason he was being visited regularly by cops.

    While "predictive policing was indirectly responsible for a guy getting shot" makes an interesting anecdote and a click bait headline, the story doesn't actually say anything about the value of predictive policing in catching criminals. I am disappointed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 Jun 2021 @ 3:38pm

    Given the number of CPD officers charged in violent acts & rights violations if their crystal ball didn't flag them we know its not working.

    Its like when the platform trained an AI to remove naziesque speech and it deleted posts form most of the GOP Congress people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2021 @ 10:40pm

    The Intercept's article about LAPD's use of COMPSTAT is worth reading too.

    https://theintercept.com/2021/01/30/lapd-palantir-data-driven-policing/

    Way too easy to make an oppressive police presence in black/brown neighborhoods justified with an expensive computer program.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jun 2021 @ 5:10am

    Predicting the future by statistical guesswork would be laughed off as ridiculous as fortune tellers were it done by humans. For some reason, doing it with a computer makes all the difference for some people. Because computers are magic, no?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lostinlodos (profile), 5 Jun 2021 @ 8:02pm

    The only people responsible for the man being shot are the shooters.
    It’s that simple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 7 Jun 2021 @ 2:24am

      Re:

      "The only people responsible for the man being shot are the shooters. "

      No.

      The shooters were told to place trust in a magic 8-ball as to which people were likely to pose credible threat. Whoever told them this is just as culpable.

      Or are you telling us the guys giving orders resulting in malfeasance get off scot free because the guys "just following orders" should have known better?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Lostinlodos (profile), 7 Jun 2021 @ 3:11am

        Re: Re:

        Are you actually trying to say CPD told gang members to go kill someone?

        The person who shot him is responsible for shooting him. End of any discussion.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2021 @ 4:05am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Are you actually trying to say CPD told gang members to go kill someone?

          Woild this surprise anyone? This is Chicago we're talking about.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 8 Jun 2021 @ 7:34am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "The person who shot him is responsible for shooting him. End of any discussion."

          Weird how your logic always twists to work in favor of the police.

          The CPD relied on a magic 8-ball to pursue a person with a pair of misdemeanors until actual criminals decided to take him out as a presumptive snitch. Not a problem according to you.

          Meanwhile in the other thread over when a man drives down a road in possession of his daughters ashes, some legal pot, and cooperates with the police your claim is that it's all his fault when the police, who should be held to higher standards than criminals, decide his provocative behavior of cooperation merits the extra low bar of thuggery treatment.

          It's interesting to note that by the logic you keep bringing up the matter of "guilt" always relies exclusively on who wears the badge.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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