According to a recent investigation, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office in Florida used a faulty crime predicting algorithm to target innocent citizens, who were then relentlessly harassed by police for no reason.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that local police visited the homes of the people who were targeted by the algorithm and looked for reasons to arrest them.
If they could not find a reason, they would often cite people for zoning violations and other arbitrary offenses.
These charges were then fed back into the algorithm, which flagged them as criminals yet again, leading to additional harassment.
The Times identified 21 families who were singled out by the algorithm and regularly harassed even though there was no evidence that they did anything wrong. In most cases, people were targeted because they had previous run-ins with the police or prior criminal charges.
In statements responding to the report, a spokesperson for the Pasco Sheriff’s Office defended the program, saying other police departments use similar methods.
The sheriff’s office also took issue with the use of the word “harassment,” saying that visiting a random person’s home to cite them for anything possible is just an example of “basic law enforcement functions.”
Perhaps that has something to do with why there have been thousands of people protesting against the police this year.
“Unfortunately, the media outlet responsible for this piece didn’t feel compelled to shed light on facts, and instead chose to weave a salacious, fictitious tale,” the spokesperson said.
On Facebook, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office made a lengthy post attacking the Tampa Bay Times and their report, along with the officers who gave statements about the program.
The post actually revealed the disciplinary records of the officers who were quoted for the story, including one who had sex with a confidential informant and another who got in trouble for lurking around a female officer’s house uninvited.
In the post, the sheriff’s office admitted to targeting people simply based on their criminal history, but also stated that criminal history should be considered sufficient evidence to start investigating someone, which is not a perspective that is typically shared by the courts, who will not allow previous charges to be used as evidence in current criminal cases.
Furthermore, people were identified by the algorithm merely for being a suspect in a crime, even if they were cleared and had the charges against them dropped.
People are also “scored” higher by the algorithm if they appear in five or more police reports, even if they were listed as a witness or the victim.
Even prior to the deployment of the algorithm, the sheriff’s office regularly monitored people who they considered to be criminals after they had already paid their debt to society.
The sheriff’s office did not apologize for any of the people who feel like were harassed, and in fact, said that “we will not apologize for continuing to keep our community safe.”
The post went on to reference unrelated drug busts and “recovered children” lamenting that the media doesn’t report on them doing the bare minimum that their job requires.