Tech that can flag potentially bad police officers is scheduled to go live in Oakland this week as one of the key tasks ordered by a federal judge overseeing reforms in a nearly two-decade-old police corruption case.
(TNS) — Technology that can flag potentially bad police officers is scheduled to go live in Oakland, Calif., on Monday as one of the key tasks ordered by a federal judge overseeing reforms in a nearly two-decade-old police corruption case.
The Vision risk management system comes to the Oakland Police Department after years of trial and error and millions of tax dollars poured into unworkable technologies. If all goes as planned, Vision will pool information from all aspects of an officer’s career, including time in the academy, data on police stops, citizen complaints, body camera footage and use of force.
The idea is to help the department identify potentially problematic officers before they become a danger to themselves or the community. When Vision flags an outlier, supervisors can take a closer look at the data and potentially perform an intervention prior to discipline.
“(Vision) will allow us to use that information, analyze it, and try to get to the bottom of why something happened,” said Oakland’s Chief Information Officer Pete Peterson. “And then, taking that information, we can create policies that hopefully prevent it, or encourage it, if it’s positive.”
Peterson said the system will essentially function in the same fashion as analytics in private entities. He compares it to grocery shopping at Safeway, where customers use a personalized card at checkout for a discount.
“They give you that discount for a reason — they want to understand what you’re buying, in what combination, and in what quantities,” Peterson said. “They’re using that information to determine the value of placement in a grocery store. It’s not random that potato chips are where they are.”
The development of Vision was met with cautious enthusiasm by the department’s court-appointed monitor Robert Warshaw, who highlighted the system in his quarterly report.
Warshaw, who has recently blasted the department for backsliding on various reform orders, counted the Vision system as a major project “that could revolutionize Oakland policing.”
The risk management system was originally designed to curb racial bias in policing, after data showed Oakland police were far more likely to target people of color. Implementation of the system is one of more than 50 tasks ordered by a federal judge as a way to stamp out unconstitutional policing.
The federal oversight is rooted in a two-decade-old police brutality case known as the “Riders” scandal, when a group of rogue officers were accused of beating and framing Oakland citizens of crimes.
The case prompted a judge in 2003 to issue dozens of orders to remedy the department’s training, as well as tracking and discipline of officers — and the tasks were supposed to be completed in five years.
By the beginning of 2019, the embattled department seemed on the cusp of at last securing full compliance. There were just three partial tasks yet to be filled, involving internal affairs’ complaint procedures, data on whom police stop and consistency of discipline.
But, the department began losing ground in March, in the aftermath of the controversial 2018 police shooting of Joshua Pawlik. Warshaw reopened a task involving the department’s Executive Force Review Board, finding its investigation of the Pawlik case inadequate.
Vision will replace a predecessor known as Prime, a system widely regarded as a failure for being too slow, too cumbersome and too costly. Oakland will pay about $2.1 million for Vision, plus about $200,000 a year, compared to Prime, which would have cost between $700,000 and $1 million per year, Peterson said.
The Vision system will roll out in two stages: On Monday it will begin the aggregating from various systems, and will start allowing officers to input data and videos from their interactions with citizens. In February, supervisors will be able to start accessing dashboards that summarize the information of their subordinates.
Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said she’s optimistic the system will help push the department into full compliance.
“The new system is much easier to use. It is easier to input data, it is more intuitive and streamlined,” she said. “It allows quicker access to a wider amount of information that feeds the employee management system.”
Jim Chanin, an attorney who represents the plaintiffs in the Riders case, said he’s optimistic about Vision’s abilities, and praised Peterson for at last making it a reality.
“I’m really looking forward to the department developing these things, as promised and, more importantly, that the officers will be trained to use this equipment to the maximum degree,” he said. “It’s not going to be successful unless it’s used.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also welcomed the new system.
“This marks an important milestone in Oakland’s effort to become the most transparent and proactive police department in the country,” Schaaf said. “This technology is a powerful tool that will ensure real-time accountability and continual improvement. It’s an early warning system for our department and for our entire community.”
©2019 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.