Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how technology is changing American policing.

THE RISE OF BIG DATA POLICING

SURVEILLANCE, RACE, AND THE FUTURE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT

A survey of predictive policing: how data makes it possible, its benefits and pitfalls, and what it may portend for American law enforcement and race relations.

In an important book that goes to the heart of issues at the forefront of contemporary life, Ferguson (Law/Univ. of the District of Columbia; Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action, 2012) examines how police departments are now using supposedly “objective” data-driven surveillance technologies to work more effectively in a budget-cutting era and to avoid claims of racial bias. In this engaging, well-written narrative, based on studies and a deep understanding of policing, the author describes the growing police use of shared data (the National Crime Information Center database is “reportedly accessed 12 million times a day by authorities”), its effects on how and where police work, and its usefulness in predicting future criminals (just as Amazon uses data to identify repeat shoppers). Some uses of data are surprising, as in Chicago, New Orleans, and other cities, where police maintain “heat lists” of individuals likely to be involved in crimes and then write to and visit the listed suspects, warning them to avoid criminal activity. The data used in predictive policing is prone to bias and error, warns Ferguson, and it includes “black data,” which is opaque, hidden in complex algorithms deemed proprietary by software vendors who work with police. Using erroneous data can lead to “aggressive police presence, surveillance, and perceived harassment” in poor communities of color. In fact, “big data policing reifies many of the systemic inequalities of traditional policing,” writes the author, who is candid in his assessment of the role of implicit bias in law enforcement. He concludes with questions he urges police departments to ask about racial bias, error, and accountability in data-driven policing.

Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how technology is changing American policing.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4798-9282-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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