Mayor Linville: Stop predictive policing in Bellingham

Dec. 7, 2016 update: A racial profiling lawsuit against the City of Bellingham is moving forward after a federal judge said that by questioning a teenager about his immigration status and criminal history, instead of just calling his parents, the Bellingham police may have violated state anti-discrimination policy.

Jan. 18, 2016 update: During her Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration speech, Mayor Linville responds to protestors' calls to end racial profiling by stating, "If we find out our police department is racially profiling then I would say anyone in the department that's doing that needs to be disciplined or fired." (This is after she has been approached by residents who have been profiled, who shared their stories with her. This is after racial profiling complaints have been filed with the police.)

Oct. 6, 2015 update: A staffer in Kelli Linville's office told RJC that the mayor accepted the DOJ grant for predictive policing software, despite demands for a community forum process. We need more signatures on this petition to keep alive our campaign to stop predictive policing in Bellingham. Our officials must be held accountable for continued practices of racial profiling and the militarization of police.

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Predictive policing software could legitimize racial profiling in Bellingham. It bases its predictions, hotspots, and risk ratings on past police data and years of targeting specific communities.

Despite vocal public opposition, our police department is moving ahead with implementing the software, and our elected officials say there’s nothing they can do to stop Chief Cook.

We know better. We demand that Mayor Kelli Linville suspend the process of acquiring predictive policing software now.

The software will use the department’s past crime data to help the police identify neighborhoods where they should concentrate patrols. According to the department:

“Predictive policing software tries to harness the power of information, geospatial technologies and evidence-based intervention models to reduce crime and improve public safety. This two-pronged approach—applying advanced analytics to various data sets, in conjunction with intervention models—can move law enforcement from reacting to crimes into the realm of predicting what and where something is likely to happen and deploying resources accordingly.” 

Our concern: Bad data in, bad data out. Plugging in data collected through biased policing will lead police to increase their patrols of the communities unfairly affected by bias.

This is not about Bellingham police being good or bad cops. We do not have the data to determine whether Bellingham police racially profile more or less than other law enforcement agencies – because our police department does not currently collect sufficient data.

What we do know is that racial profiling happens everywhere, and that it is bad in Washington State.

A 2011 state-funded study found that in Washington, “race and racial bias matter in ways that are not fair, that do not advance legitimate public safety objectives, that produce disparities in the criminal justice system, and that undermine public confidence in our legal system.”

This study debunked the myth that people of color are incarcerated at disproportionate rates because they commit more crimes. It showed instead that bias distorts decision-making throughout the criminal justice system.

When Police Chief Cook says that neighborhoods with people of color are policed more because that’s where more crimes are committed, he’s wrong. They are neighborhoods where his department’s existing data say more crimes are committed.

Mayor Kelli Linville and Police Chief Clifford Cook already know this. Members of BASOW, Racial Justice Coalition, and other community groups have met with them multiple times in 2015 to present concerns. Instead of engaging with the solutions we propose, the mayor and the Bellingham Police Department are moving ahead with software that threatens to entrench racial profiling, digitally.

Tell the mayor to stop predictive policing software from coming to Bellingham, and engage instead with community concerns.

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Dear Mayor Linville,


Please suspend the process of acquiring predictive policing software for Bellingham immediately.


I am concerned that the City’s implementation of this software will legitimize racial profiling. Plugging in data collected through biased policing will lead police to increase their patrols of the communities unfairly affected by bias.


I urge you to stop the acquisition of predictive policing software, and instead meaningfully engage with community concerns about managing bias and monitoring policing, as articulated by the Racial Justice Coalition.

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