Civil Rights, Big Data, and Our Algorithmic Future
As this report goes to print, a tragedy is unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a White police officer. In the months to come, federal and local investigations will seek to determine what happened during the encounter between police officer and civilian.
Consider how differently these investigations might have gone had Officer Wilson used a body-worn camera to record his interaction with Mr. Brown. With strict measures to ensure proper protocols are in place, such cameras can be a powerful tool for police oversight and accountability, as well as to address longstanding deficiencies in police practice that disproportionately impact communities of color. The police in Ferguson have now rolled out such cameras, and a growing number of departments around the country are doing the same. These changes come too late for Mr. Brown, but they will help to make police more accountable for their conduct going forward.
You might call this a big data issue. Or you might say it’s about criminal justice reform. Whether we use the language of big data or civil rights, we’re looking at many of the same questions. And that’s why this report is so important.
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