Criminal Profiling Program Criticized 

Criminal Profiling Program Criticized 
Posted by FoM on February 05, 2000 at 18:04:09 PT
By Brian Bakst, Associated Press
Source: Los Angeles Times
Justice: Minneapolis police say computer software helps them target problem areas. Others say officers have become too aggressive.   On the corner of Chicago and East Franklin, near boarded-up houses and vacant lots, Robert Flippin didn't stand out among the people lingering at the bus stop. 
That didn't stop Officers Matt Hobbs and Chad Fuchs from pulling up in their police cruiser to see what he was doing.   No one had called the police. What brought Hobbs and Fuchs to this part of the Phillips neighborhood was a computer program borrowed from New York that pinpointed the area as a hot spot for drug deals and other crime. And like New York, this Midwestern metropolis is grappling with the quandaries that arise over how to come down hard on crime without oppressing innocent bystanders.   "Why you always messing with me? I'm not doing anything," Flippin shouted as Fuchs and Hobbs persisted in questioning his presence. He was waiting for his younger sister to come on the bus, he said.   Flippin shouted once too often and the two officers jumped from their squad car. They searched him and found a $10 bag of marijuana in his sock. Flippin insisted he had forgotten about the pouch.   Flippin has been arrested 45 times since 1993. Sixteen cases were dismissed, 11 are pending and he has 18 convictions, including a couple for felony robbery and cocaine possession. This time he got off with a warning.   CODEFOR, Computer Optimized Deployment Focus on Results, studies daily crime reports, identifies chronic trouble spots and deploys police accordingly.   It is an essential part of an 18-month-old crime-fighting strategy that Minneapolis police credit for drastically cutting murders, rapes, robberies and other serious offenses.   Minneapolis installed CODEFOR in 1998 with the help of New York City police, who were the first to use it. It also adopted a more aggressive, New York-like policing culture.   Officers are encouraged to get out of their cars, frequently check IDs and, in some cases, pat people down--regardless of whether a crime has been committed.   One area they focus on is rundown Franklin Avenue, home to the American Indian cultural center, a Hispanic market called Las Americas Mercado, the Vinai Market for East Asian cuisine, and vendors catering to Arab and Somali immigrants.   As in New York, Minneapolis police officers have made more arrests and written more tickets for "quality of life" offenses, such as public urination or excessive noise. In 1998, Minneapolis police made 34,470 arrests for minor offenses, up 27 percent from the year before.   At the same time, violent crime numbers keep dropping. In the seven major offenses tracked by the federal government, Minneapolis saw a 10 percent dip for the first six months of 1999. That's on top of a crime drop in 1998, in which murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson rates fell by 16 percent. The midyear murder count was the lowest since 1984.   Criminal justice experts are reluctant to cite any one cause. Some point to demographics, others to the strong economy.   Some officers also are skeptical.   "For years, cops have been shaking down people for minor offenses," Scott Ramsdell said. "Every year it just gets a new name."   Program Is Seen as a Paradox:   Although many citizens are delighted with the drop in crime, some minority community leaders and watchdog groups question whether the aggressive policing is worth it.   "It's absolutely a difficult paradox," said Clarence Hightower, president of the Urban League. "If you speak out very vigilantly against the increased activities in targeted neighborhoods it can inappropriately be assumed that you are in favor of increased crime."   Complaints to the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union have gone from about 50 a year to "a couple hundred" over six to eight months, Executive Director Chuck Samuelson said.   Samuelson assigned two investigators to look at allegations stemming from CODEFOR and the new policing culture. Two or three may result in lawsuits, he said.   "There is the feeling out there that the police [are] an occupying force and they are harassing people," Samuelson said.   The Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority also has logged more complaints since CODEFOR was implemented: 742 last year, compared with 715 in 1997. More than half of the 1998 complaints came from minorities. (Only 113 of the calls in 1998 led to signed complaints that trigger extensive investigations, down from 159 in 1997.)   Through Oct. 20, 1999, 699 calls came in, of which 96, mostly from blacks, have evolved into more extensive investigations.   The Rev. Randy Staten, a leader in the Coalition of Black Churches, is a critic of CODEFOR. He said the coalition is considering a class action against Minneapolis.   "A lot of people don't see the other side of the story," Staten said. "A lot of people don't care. They believe that everyone who gets stopped is on drugs or what have you."   Neither the Civil Liberties Union nor minority community leaders would provide names of complainants. The review authority doesn't make signed complaints public until it completes its work, which can take a year or more.   Hobbs, the street cop, bristles at the suggestion that CODEFOR leads to racial profiling.   "We stop the white guys just as much who are doing the exact same crime," he said. The area he patrols simply has a greater concentration of minorities, he said.   "We can't win. We're caught in the middle," added Brad Johnson, an inspector and 20-year veteran. "The community complains because we don't roust them. And they complain because they're saying we are rousting them. The only ones we're rousting are the ones that are causing a disturbance or breaking an ordinance or a law." Minneapolis (AP)Published: February 5, 2000Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times ACLU Driving While Black Clinton, McCaffrey, Hatch, & McCullum Racist? By Mark Greer News Justice Related Articles:
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