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Date and Location

March 6, 2024
4:30 PM - 5:45 PM ET


New Technology and Big Data: Equitable and Objective Advancements, or Net Widening and False Promises of Reform? Photo


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Over the last three decades, law enforcement agencies have turned toward proactive rather than just responsive policing, examining patterns in the people and places involved in criminal acts to try to disrupt crime before it happens or better target known hotspots. This CompStat era of big data policing has increasingly given way to an era of predictive policing. Law enforcement agencies are frequently using algorithms and proprietary technology to inform patrol decisions and police decision-making. This increasing use of data and technology in policing has been pitched by some as an accountability tool that allows for more accurate crime reporting, more responsive police service, improved efficiency, and reduced bias. But the big data revolution in policing also has major implications for widening the scope of police contact, compromising privacy and civil liberties, and entrenching social inequity. Some independent evaluations have shown, for example that technology like PredPol/Geolitica and ShotSpotter disproportionately send officers to low-income Black and Latino neighborhoods, but suffer from inaccuracy in predictions and limited efficacy in preventing or reducing crime. Research has shown that crime prediction software and other algorithmic tools, despite their appearance of impartiality and promise of scientific rigor, can ultimately perpetuate disparities or amplify existing biases. Join our guest, Dr. Sarah Brayne, to discuss how to weigh these costs and benefits in shaping public policy.


Sarah Brayne is an Associate Professor of Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. She received her PhD in Sociology and Social Policy at Princeton University and completed a postdoc at Microsoft Research New England. In her research, Brayne analyzes the social consequences of data-intensive surveillance practices. She uses qualitative and quantitative methods to examine how these developments are—and are not—transforming longstanding social structures and mechanisms of social stratification. Her first book, Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing, draws on ethnographic research within the Los Angeles Police Department to understand the social implications of how law enforcement uses predictive analytics and new surveillance technologies. In earlier work, she developed a theory of "system avoidance," using survey data to test the relationship between criminal legal contact and involvement in medical, financial, labor market, and educational institutions. She is currently working on a project examining the role of exposure to the criminal legal system in shaping racial and ethnic disparities in health, aging, and mortality. Brayne has been volunteer teaching college classes in prisons since 2012 and is the founder and director of the Texas Prison Education Initiative (TPEI), a group of faculty and students who volunteer teach college classes in prisons in Texas.

Moderated by Katy Naples-Mitchell, Program Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management.

The Surveillance, Criminalization, and Punishment  speaker series is organized by Katy Naples-Mitchell, Program Director of the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, and  Sandra Susan Smith, Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice; Faculty Director, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management; Director, Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy; Professor of Sociology; and Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute.

Speakers and Presenters

​Sarah Brayne, Associate Professor of Sociology,  University of Texas at Austin | Katy Naples-Mitchell (moderator), Program Director, HKS Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management


Additional Organizers

​Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, HKS