Emerging technology can help police increase transparency, streamline data collection – American City & County

For the last year or so—sparked by nationwide protests that materialized following a few instances of violence—lack of transparency in law enforcement has periodically dominated public discourse. As local administrators pivot to address these concerns within their communities, emerging technologies can help agencies identify and prevent racial bias. 
New software developed by the California-based artificial intelligence tech company Veritone, for example, automatically collects data during police traffic stops. The system, called Veritone Contact, was designed to help law enforcement agencies stay compliant with California’s Racial Identity and Profiling Act (RIPA). 
The legislation was passed into law a few years ago and requires all agencies to start collecting this information by Jan. 1, 2022 and “subsequently report it to the state’s Department of Justice by 2023,” a brief from Veritone notes. By collecting detailed perceived demographic information during traffic and pedestrian stops, this transparency initiative aims to prevent racial profiling and bias, but can be time consuming for officers, keeping them from their primary patrol responsibilities.” 
Currently, more than 70 California law enforcement agencies have contracted the software company, with at least 30 more expected to be enrolled by the end of the year. It’s beneficial in that it streamlines an otherwise tedious and time-consuming process, according to Justin Murphy, a captain with the Escondido Police Department. 
“Our agency is under increased pressure to balance public transparency and preserve individual privacy,” said Murphy in a statement. “Veritone Contact provides our officers with a simplified way to collect required observational data and ensures we comply with the latest legislation. The technology helps us redirect countless hours of valuable time and resources to continue our most important job of maintaining public safety.” 
Besides demographic information, the system allows users to customize additional information that’s collected. This customization can “provide supplemental observations (that) can further assist with constituent transparency initiatives and officer training,” the brief says, 
A study released this year by Veritone notes the challenge faced by communities in increasing transparency, and highlights the beneficial role that technology can play. The report, “Transparency and Trust: Shining Light on Police and Community Relationships and How Technology Can Help,” says that, of 3,000 respondents, there was “strong support for anti-racism and unconscious bias training (44 percent), overwhelmingly, people want officers spending their time responding to violent (84 percent) and non-violent (67 percent) crime, not performing administrative tasks such as producing reports.” 
Other notable findings in the study include a prevailing sentiment among respondents (84 percent) that police officers should focus their efforts on responding to violent crime. Comparatively, less than 40 percent said they should also assist with medical and mental health calls. 
Spending tax dollars on emerging technologies that can increase transparency was also supported, albeit at lower percentages, among respondents. A little more than 35 percent of people said they’re in favor of increasing spending on such innovation, and 32 percent supported spending on technology that allows officers to spend more time on patrol and less time on administrative duties and paperwork.  
“Automation is crucial to improving police transparency and preserving public trust in law enforcement,” said Jon Gacek, Veritone’s head of government, legal and compliance in a statement. “Veritone Contact has helped us greatly expand our presence within the California law enforcement community. As a result, we’re working with many of them now to improve their investigation and public record disclosure workflows with our redaction and evidence discovery solutions.” 
From technology like Veritone’s software to programs that can quickly sift through and distill unwieldy datasets and, amongh other things, redact videos and documents to streamline their public release, the report notes that behind-the-scenes technology can be a powerful tool when used well.  
“Technology is very important, especially now when we’re tyrying to be data-driven and intelligence-driven in policing,” said Chris Bailey, assistant chief at the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, in the report. “With limited resources and the demands on law enforcement growing by the day, we have to allocate wisely. Technology plays an incredibly important role in making people feel safe, solving crimes and building trust and legitimacy within the community. The more information we can provide at the public’s fingertips, I think the better off we’ll be.” 
The Veritone Contact software can be accessed via any secure mobile device, computers in a patrol vehicles or via a laptop. For more information on Veritone’s Contact application for law enforcement, visit veritone.com/applications/contact.
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