Smarter Early Intervention Systems for Police In an Era of Pervasive Recording

Investigations of police departments by the U.S. Department of Justice spurred the spread of early intervention systems that use data to detect officers at elevated risk of problematic conduct. These systems of internal self-surveillance remain even when consent decrees expire and federal investigators turn to other tasks—or pull back during Presidential regime changes. Such automated technologies of harm detection and prevention that outlast political upheaval are alluring—but they are only as effective as the data and criteria on which they rely to detect and prevent problems. Current systems largely are dependent on reported events and use simplistic thresholds based on intuition to trigger red flags. To improve the harm prevention power and build a smarter system, this Article proposes using a rich and growing source of data not traditionally used in early intervention systems—audiovisual data from police-worn body cameras and community-member cell phone cameras. The Article also presents findings from the coding and collection of 213 body camera policies regarding whether a major source of audiovisual data—police-worn body camera videos—may be used to monitor and evaluate officers. While there are policy silences, gaps, and splits, the Article concludes that the majority of departments have the opportunity to use the rapidly accumulating trove of audiovisual data to create smarter early intervention systems.

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