Artificial Intelligence & Law Enforcement

One wag put it this way: “It’s a good thing artificial intelligence is here. The real thing hasn’t been working too well.” 

Regardless, artificial intelligence or Al is indeed expanding into virtually all aspects of our lives today. It was only a matter of time before it found applications in policing. For one thing, Al has increased the efficiency and effectiveness of intelligence collection and crime analysis. Artificial intelligence algorithms can sort through huge amounts of material from news media, social media, law enforcement databases, and public records to identify patterns that human eyes and brains may have missed. Applying Al to crime analysis functions can aid investigators in analyzing criminal behavior and crime patterns leading to the prediction and interdiction of future criminal acts. Cops literally can be told when and where a crook has a good chance of striking next. 

Additionally, Al technology behind computerized facial recognition already is aiding law enforcement in investigating, solving, and even preventing crime. With this technology investigators can rapidly compare the facial features in a newly- captured image with those stored in a database of previously-recorded faces. 

Wanted criminals and missing persons can be identified in the process. Also, the technology’s value in preventing future terrorist attacks is obvious. 

But with all the very real benefits of Al, potential threats cannot be discounted. That is where the ethics and integrity of those “pulling the levers” of the Al machine come into play. As leaders in the law enforcement profession, we are keenly aware that Al’s entry into policing has raised concerns about a “Big Brother State” in which citizens’ privacy and constitutionally-shielded rights can be easily violated.

One way in which that tragic state of affairs can be avoided is to assure that the human element always controls any machine-driven process. In addition, an obligation that all of us as citizens of this country share is to see to it that only ethical, honest, responsible human beings, elected or otherwise, remain at the controls of the Al machinery. To do otherwise is to permit the technology to become the master. 

As leaders, it is our responsibility to assure that artificial intelligence in its myriad applications is utilized for the good of our citizen-customers in protecting them from crime while simultaneously defending their constitutional rights. And it is the duty of all of us as citizens to be sure that we are doing our jobs well in seeing that these things happen. After all, someone must maintain surveillance on those who are doing the surveilling. Those of us who honor and practice the ethics of our profession welcome that attention. 

Jerry Garner, a 54-year veteran of law enforcement, is chief of the Corinth Police Department

Similar Posts