The ‘Uberization of Policing’? How Police Negotiate and Operationalise Predictive Policing Technology

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The 'Uberization of Policing'? How Police Negotiate and Operationalise Predictive Policing Technology

Authors: Ajay Sandhu, Pete Fussey

Publication: Policing and Society

Date published: 4 August 2020

Citation: Ajay Sandhu & Peter Fussey (2020) The ‘uberization of policing’? How police negotiate and operationalise predictive policing technology, Policing and Society, DOI: 10.1080/10439463.2020.1803315


Predictive policing generally refers to police work that utilises strategies, algorithmic technologies, and big data to generate near-future predictions about the people and places deemed likely to be involved in or experience crime. Claimed benefits of predictive policing centre on the technology’s ability to enable pre-emptive police work by automating police decisions. The goal is that officers will rely on computer software and smartphone applications to instruct them about where and who to police just as Uber drivers rely on similar technologies to instruct them about where to pick up passengers. Unfortunately, little is known about the experiences of the in-field users of predictive technologies. This article helps fill this gap by addressing the under researched area of how police officers engage with predictive technologies. As such, data is presented that outlines the findings of a qualitative study with UK police organisations involved in designing and trialing predictive policing software. Research findings show that many police officers have a detailed awareness of the limitations of predictive technologies, specifically those brought about by errors and biases in input data. This awareness has led many officers to develop a sceptical attitude towards predictive technologies and, in a few cases, these officers have expressed a reluctance to use predictive technologies. Based on these findings, this paper argues that claims about predictive software’s ability to neutralise the subjectivity of police work overlooks the ongoing struggles of the police officer to assert their agency and mediate the extent to which predictions will be trusted and utilised.