Modeling and Profiling

Mike Swetnam

 

There is much hue and cry over what is called profiling in law enforcement. Many see this tactic as merely a weak justification for prejudice.  In truth profiling, using race in particular, has been a tool of prejudice far too often in our history.

 

Clearly, targeting individuals based on race, or sex, or nationality is prejudice. Prejudice is ignorance at the extreme. It is judging one’s character without facts or knowledge of that character at all. That is ignorance. That is the opposite of science. 

 

The US Constitution was designed to protect us from such fact-less attacks.

 

Science is about really understanding things. Science is about facts. A scientifically developed model of criminal activity will help the police find potential criminals using knowledge and science, not prejudice and ignorance.

 

Modeling human behavior is rapidly becoming a mature science.  Many industries model human behavior to understand who will buy which product.  This information is used very successfully to target potential buyers and improve the buying experience.  Behavior modeling is also used to detect fraudulent credit card and banking activity.

 

At a macro level, human behavior modeling is a form of profiling.  The difference is that the profile is not based on biased ignorance or prejudice, it is based on a scientific understanding of the way humans behave.

 

That is the difference between what people dislike, prejudiced based profiling, and what we need, scientific models of criminal activity.

 

The Constitution does not protect individuals against facts.

 

The Chicago police[1] recently began testing a scientific model of criminal activity. It claims to use scientifically based models to target individuals who are likely to commit crimes. Some would call this profiling. 

 

The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies (PIPS), and in particular, the Center for Revolutionary Science Thought at PIPS, is dedicated to the development of public policy based on science. It is clear to us that scientifically based models of criminal behavior can and will be useful in finding criminals and preventing crime.

 

A key point is to make sure the models are based on science and not personal prejudices.  Without seeing the details of the Chicago model it is difficult to determine if it is a scientifically valid model of human behavior or just another attempt at prejudicial law enforcement.  We hope it is scientifically based and useful.

Finally, we need to worry about finding criminals or potential criminals before they commit a crime.  More on this in the next blog.

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