For years, there have been two schools of thought regarding technological advancements – one second it, while the other condemns it on the grounds of it making the world and us ‘less human’. Now, it looks like we’ve actually found a way to use technology to help us be better humans by resolving the inherent flaws we have.
Racial bias, although often unequivocally denied, is often a driving force behind many arrests or subpoenas. But on Wednesday, San Francisco’s District Attorney George Gascón announced that from July 1, the city will begin to use a “bias mitigation tool” that automatically redacts anything on the police report that might be suggestive of race, from hair color to zip code. Information about the police officer, such as badge number, will also be hidden.
The tool will use artificial intelligence to reduce possible racial bias among prosecutors while reviewing police reports, a “first-in-the-nation” use of a technology whose applications have been criticized for compounding bias.
Currently, the district attorney’s office manually removes the first few pages of the report, but if any race details are in the narrative written by the investigating officer, prosecutors can see them.
“This technology will reduce the threat that implicit bias poses to the purity of decisions which have serious ramifications for the accused, and that will help make our system of justice more fair and just,” Gascón said.
According to a report on the District Attorney’s office published in 2017, African Americans accounted for 43% of people booked into jail despite only making up 6% of San Francisco’s population between 2008 and 2014. The report found “little evidence” of overt racial bias by the prosecutors, implicit bias is still possible. That’s what the AI will try to eliminate.
If this proves to be successful in reducing and ultimately eliminating racial bias in the federal justice system, we could see this tool being employed by judicial systems around the country and overseas.