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LAPD will end controversial program that aimed to predict where crimes would occur

LAPD Officers Denise Vasquez, left, and Oscar Bocanegra patrol in Tarzana.
In 2019, Officers Denise Vasquez and Oscar Bocanegra patrol a Tarzana area where a computer program predicted a higher possibility of property crime.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore announced Tuesday that, in light of financial constraints caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the department would stop using a controversial program that predicts where property crimes could occur throughout the city.

Critics say the predictive-policing program, called Pred-Pol, has led to heavier policing of minority neighborhoods. Moore has said in the past that he disagrees with the view that the program unfairly targets Latino and black neighborhoods.

“That is a hard decision,” Moore said during a Police Commission meeting conducted remotely by Zoom. “It’s a strategy we used, but the cost projections of hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on that right now versus finding that money and directing that money to other more central activities is what I have to do.”

Moore said he believed the underlying principles behind Pred-Pol were valid and that he’d be looking at other systems that crime analysts have to identify where crime is occurring. He said that a handbook on data-informed community policing that activists had been long awaiting was published on the LAPD’s website Monday.

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Community activists on the call emphasized how Moore’s decision came after they pressured the department to discontinue the program.

“This is all through the hard work of community folks,” said Hamid Khan of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. “This is community power that shows we can dismantle it and stop these egregious tactics.”

Pred-Pol software — developed by a UCLA professor in conjunction with the LAPD — was designed to predict in real time where and when crimes were likely to occur over the next 12 hours. In October, the department announced changes to the program seven months after the LAPD inspector general said he couldn’t determine its effectiveness in reducing crime.

The Times reported last year that numerous departments across the country had ended use of the software because they determined it did not help reduce crime and that it provided information already being gathered by officers patrolling the streets.

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During the meeting, Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala detailed how the pandemic has affected efforts to increase diversity among LAPD recruits. Before the coronavirus took hold on daily life in Los Angeles, she said, the department had been “right on track” to substantially increase its recruitment and hiring of African Americans, Asian Pacific Islanders and women.

In February, the department had 671 prospects within the candidate pool, including 82 African Americans, 157 women and 58 Asian Pacific Islanders. A month later, the number of prospects dropped to 392.

“We already started to see a decline as social and community anxiety increased and got people from the focus of maybe future careers to other things as critical as life and death,” said Girmala.

The department has had to cancel recruitment events to attract diverse candidates, including a women’s hiring seminar scheduled for late March that had received more than 250 RSVPs.

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Girmala emphasized that recruitment efforts will continue and that the department has adapted by moving parts of the candidate testing process online.

“My concern and the department’s concern is that some of these viable candidates, if there is an opening and ability to go elsewhere, they will,” she said. “Our hiring process and its standards are extremely high and rigid, and those other agencies would be getting a heck of a good candidate as part of their ranks.”

The number of Los Angeles Police Department officers and civilian employees infected by the coronavirus has risen to 65 employees testing positive, Moore said Tuesday. One individual is in critical condition at a hospital.

The chief said the department has tested 609 employees who have shown coronavirus symptoms and 144 employees are currently quarantined or in isolation due to being symptomatic or testing positive. Scores of Los Angeles police officers have the choice of self-isolating at home or moving to a hotel in downtown L.A.

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The chief said that the department has continued to focus its resources on patrol and has continued reallocating officers to the field. Over the last six weeks, he said, there has been a steep drop-off in crime, including homicides, aggravated assaults and robberies, and calls concerning domestic violence have been flat. Moore said he was concerned about motor vehicle thefts and noted that decisions to downsize the jail population could be allowing an increase in recidivism.

Enforcing L.A.’s ‘Safer at Home’ order, Moore said, has been focused on nonessential businesses. LAPD officers have responded to more than 1,440 calls regarding allegations of nonessential businesses continuing to operate and have filed complaints in 79 cases.

“In the ... majority of instances, we find compliance, we find misunderstanding about whether a business is essential or not,” he said.

Times staff writer Cindy Chang and former Times staff writer Mark Puente contributed to this report.


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