Ferguson on Predictive Policing: The Future of Reasonable Suspicion

Professor Andrew G. Ferguson of University of the District of Columbia Law School has published Predictive Policing: The Future of Reasonable Suspicion, forthcoming in Emory Law Journal.

Here is the abstract:

Predictive policing is a new law enforcement strategy to reduce crime by predicting criminal activity before it happens. Using sophisticated computer algorithms to forecast future events from past crime patterns, predictive policing has become the centerpiece of a new smart-policing strategy in several major cities. The initial results have been strikingly successful in reducing crime.

This article addresses the Fourth Amendment consequences of this police innovation, analyzing the effect of predictive policing on the concept of reasonable suspicion. This article examines predictive policing in the context of the larger constitutional framework of “prediction” and the Fourth Amendment. Many aspects of current Fourth Amendment doctrine are implicitly or explicitly based on prediction. Search warrants are predictions that contraband will be found in a particular location. Investigative detentions are predictions that the person is committing, or about to commit, a crime. Fourth Amendment concepts like “probable cause,” “reasonable suspicion,” informant tips, “drug courier profiles,” “high crime areas” and others are based on evaluating levels of probability that criminal activity will occur or is occurring. Predictive policing both fits within this established tradition and also challenges it in novel ways. This article concludes that under current Fourth Amendment doctrine predictive policing will have a significant effect on reasonable suspicion analysis, a reality that necessitates a careful understanding of the technology.

HT Alex Howard

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