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LAPD official behind controversial data programs to retire after winning lucrative contract

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LAPD Deputy Chief Sean Malinowski plans to retire May 16. Since 2010, he has been one of the architects behind the way the LAPD uses data to target crime. One of the programs came under fire last month by the inspector general. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

The architect behind the Los Angeles Police Department’s widely hailed but controversial data-driven crime-fighting tools is leaving the agency next week to help expand similar programs in other cities.

Deputy Chief Sean Malinowski spent years pushing the LAPD to the forefront of how police agencies analyze data to target crime. His departure, though, comes amid the overhaul of a program he helped implement more than eight years ago to predict locations of property crimes after questions were raised about its effectiveness and whether black and Latino communities are unfairly targeted.

A 25-year veteran, Malinowski said he plans to work part time at the University of Chicago and run his own company, which won a $635,000 contract in March with the Baltimore Police Department.

Malinowski was one of a team of experts who helped the Chicago Police Department on crime issues. Under a $250-an-hour contract, Malinowski earned $223,750 between late 2016 and Feb. 9, 2018, in Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. LAPD policy doesn’t specify how much a person can earn with a second job; it does limit the work to 30 hours a week. Malinowski was quoted in a story in Chicago saying he had used all his “vacation time and days off” to do the work.

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After reaching 25 years at the LAPD, he could not perform the outside work and still serve Los Angeles, he said in an interview. His last day is May 16, according to a disclosure filed at the city’s Ethics Commission.

“The LAPD has given me lots of opportunities,” said Malinowski, who spearheaded predictive technologies under former Chiefs William J. Bratton and Charlie Beck. “I’m interested in doing things in other cities. I believe in what I do.”

Last July, newly appointed Police Chief Michel Moore picked Malinowski, 54, to be the chief of detectives. He has also led the weekly Compstat meetings at which station captains are grilled by higher-ups about how to reduce crime. The department, he said, has a “deep bench” of leaders committed to using data to make Los Angeles safer.

Some of Malinowski’s earlier posts included commanding officer of the Special Olympics World Games in 2015 and leading the Foothill Division and Real-Time Analysis and Critical Response Division. The former Fulbright scholar holds a doctorate from the University of Illinois.

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In recent years, he earned a reputation for teaching other cities how to decrease crime through data analysis. In 2017, he created a company called Strategic Focus to provide “strategic planning and technical assistance,” according to a filing with the California secretary of state’s office.

Police leaders in Chicago and Baltimore — both notorious for gun violence — sought his help to establish high-tech centers that allow police and civilian analysts to monitor gunshot detectors, surveillance cameras and use other data to determine where crimes occur.

His services in Baltimore include “daily, weekly and monthly crime briefings,” according to records. Five others will work for him in Baltimore, he said.

In a statement Monday, Chicago Police Department Supt. Eddie T. Johnson said the city faced “formidable public safety challenges” in 2016 when Malinowski was brought on. With the help of Malinowski and others, data-driven strategies have reduced crime and created “a culture of accountability for those who recklessly engage in gun violence,” he said.

Still, the Los Angeles Police Commission, the department’s civilian oversight panel, and dozens of UCLA academics raised concerns last month after a recent inspector general audit couldn’t determine whether the LAPD’s signature predictive policing program reduced crime.

The tool, called PredPol, examines 10 years of crime data and uses an algorithm to predict when and where crimes are most likely to occur, focusing police presence in hot spots.

In March, the inspector general found discrepancies with the data collection and could not “meaningfully evaluate” the program’s overall effectiveness to reduce crime, the report said. The inspector general also said the programs lacked oversight. Moore is expected to announce changes to the program in August.

Critics contend the program results in heavier policing of black and Latino communities. The department has said the algorithm does not consider race or gender in calculations.

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Malinowski defended the program, saying that every person draws different conclusions from data and that decreasing rates of property crimes prove the program works. Through mid-April, citywide property crimes were down 8% compared with 2018 and down 10% from 2017, records show.

The department, Malinowski acknowledged, made missteps by not keeping the public informed.

“We should have had community meetings to explain what we’re doing in great depth,” he said from Chicago. “It’s not as scary as people think.”

Times researcher Cary Schneider and staff writer Cindy Chang contributed to this report.


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