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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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If that promise of clarity is what awaits us all, then death doesn’t seem so awful, and that is a great gift from Sacks. A...

GRATITUDE

Valediction from the late neurologist and writer Sacks (On the Move: A Life, 2015, etc.).

In this set of four short essays, much-forwarded opinion pieces from the New York Times, the author ponders illness, specifically the metastatic cancer that spread from eye to liver and in doing so foreclosed any possibility of treatment. His brief reflections on that unfortunate development give way to, yes, gratitude as he examines the good things that he has experienced over what, in the end, turned out to be a rather long life after all, lasting 82 years. To be sure, Sacks has regrets about leaving the world, not least of them not being around to see “a thousand…breakthroughs in the physical and biological sciences,” as well as the night sky sprinkled with stars and the yellow legal pads on which he worked sprinkled with words. Sacks works a few familiar tropes and elaborates others. Charmingly, he reflects on his habit since childhood of associating each year of his life with the element of corresponding atomic weight on the periodic table; given polonium’s “intense, murderous radioactivity,” then perhaps 84 isn’t all that it’s cut out to be. There are some glaring repetitions here, unfortunate given the intense brevity of this book, such as his twice citing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s call to revel in “intercourse with the world”—no, not that kind. Yet his thoughts overall—while not as soul-stirringly inspirational as the similar reflections of Randy Pausch or as bent on chasing down the story as Christopher Hitchens’ last book—are shaped into an austere beauty, as when Sacks writes of being able in his final moments to “see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts.”

If that promise of clarity is what awaits us all, then death doesn’t seem so awful, and that is a great gift from Sacks. A fitting, lovely farewell.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-451-49293-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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