“Reform” of Data-Driven Policing and “Predictive Policing 2.0”

“Have you guys thought about spinning out a new product (not predictive policing) but branded solely for police accountability? A city could choose which version they wanted, and really they would have the same backbone and data capabilities.”
— Andrew Ferguson

The final part of this report looks at three reformist strategies for obscuring, accepting, and broadening the violence data-driven policing: (1) reframing “predictive policing” systems as “using data for police accountability,” (2) standardizing the use of these systems using surveillance bureaucracy, and (3) combining data-driven policing with “community policing” programs that draw from counterinsurgency tactics to contain and control people.

In April 2019, LAPD announced it would end Operation LASER, with LAPD chief Michel Moore admitting that the program was an “experiment.” [279] A year later, in April 2020, LAPD discontinued use of PredPol. That same month, Chief Moore announced Data-Informed Community-Focused Policing, a new data-driven policing framework that combines mass data collection and algorithms with “community policing” “procedural justice” and “data-informed” police “accountability.” [280] T he LAPD document introducing Data-Informed Community-Focused Policing proclaimed: “As part of our ongoing effort to improve the Department and the service we provide, we will continue to implement systems that measure results, improve efficiency, and provide overall accountability.”

Those reformist notions of “accountability” “efficiency” and “community policing” are not what the communities who worked to end predictive policing fought for. We demanded abolition. But policing exists within an ecology where institutions devoted to “reforming” police marginalize community voices. To abolish data-driven policing, we need to examine the work of these institutions. Indeed, just as LAPD is currently drawing from the police reform industry’s work to “reform” data-driven policing, LAPD’s first-generation predictive policing technologies were once promoted by that industry as reform as well.

When LASER and PredPol first launched, “predictive” policing was seen by police reformers as an exciting new trend, with advocacy nonprofits like the New York-based Vera Institute for Justice using that term to promote LAPD’s work. Vera – which opened an office in L.A. in 2011 that is now very active in bail and pretrial justice reform – has long been a pioneer of developing pretrial risk assessment tools, which operate similarly to predictive policing technologies to arm judges and lawyers with numerical scores to determine who to cage and how to set bail. [281]

In 2014, Vera and the Bureau of Justice Assistance – the same federal agency that Los Angeles CNAP prosecutors worked with in 2009 published their report promoting novel uses of nuisance abatement lawsuits – collaborated on a report titled “Putting a Value on Crime Analysts: Considerations for Law Enforcement Executives.” The report urged police across the country to adopt “data driven” policing tactics, describing “predictive policing” as an important new “paradigm” and highlighting Operation LASER as “an example” of this trend. [282] The report called on police departments to adopt “data-driven strategies such as hot-spot policing, problem-oriented policing, and intelligence-led policing,” even advertising the role of Palantir and Craig Uchida’s JSS firm in persuading LAPD to expand LASER:

LASER illustrates the relationship between operational and strategic crime analysis, and highlights the possibilities for collaboration in crime analysis. CID created hot-spots and offender bulletins with the aid of a private firm’s software (Palantir), while a consulting firm (Justice & Security Strategies) provided the impact analysis, which persuaded the Los Angeles Police Department to expand the program to four other divisions.

As the community worked to organize against LASER’s violence, LAPD pointed to Vera’s report as evidence that the program should be preserved. Eventually we won the day, forcing an end to both LASER and PredPol. But the evolution of those programs into today’s Data-Informed Community-Focused policing shows the need to organize not only against police tactics and programs but also against the nonprofit, academic, and industrial ecosystems that have always helped policing build and rebuild in response to community criticism.

The rest of this section focuses on three reformist strategies being used to build the next generation of data-driven policing: (1) reframing “predictive policing” systems as “using data for police accountability,” a notion that has been promoted by police reformers as “ Predictive Policing 2.0” (2) standardizing the use of these systems using legal criteria and transparency requirements, an approach we call surveillance bureaucracy, and (3) combining data-driven policing with “community policing” programs that draw from counterinsurgency tactics to contain and control people.

“Predictive Policing 2.0”

Once the community toppled LAPD’s racist notion of "predictive policing,” police grabbed for new reformist concepts to regain their footing. LAPD’s new spin on data-driven policing is the language of making policing more transparent, efficient, and “accountable.” In other words, now the police pretense for gathering and manipulating mass data harvested through LAPD’s systems – including the Palantir infrastructure that continues to manage LAPD’s data even without the LASER and PredPol “predictive” layers – will be “transparency” and the need to measure “fairness,” “accuracy,” and “effectiveness.”  

Data-Informed Community-Focused Policing even repackages and expands on Operation LASER, literally even renaming some LASER’s components. For example, according to LAPD’s internal “Daily Operations Guide” for the program that we obtained through a recent PRA, the “Crime Analysis Detail” that generated Operation LASER’s Chronic Offender Bulletin hit lists “has been renamed to the new titled Area Crime & Community Intelligence Centers (ACCIC).” [283] And the SARA (Scanning, Analysis, Response, Response) model at the core of Operation LASER was renamed as CAPRA (Clients, Acquiring and Analyzing Information, Partnerships, Response, and Assessment), a rebranding that had been recommended years earlier by the RAND Corporation. [284]

Screenshot of Geoliticas twitter page promoting community policing

Soon after LAPD replaced LASER and PredPol of Data-Informed Community-Focused Policing, the PredPol company undertook a nearly identical rebranding. In March 2021 the company announced that it was changing its name to Geolitica. The headline on their website changed to: “We run operations for public safety teams to be more transparent, accountable, and effective.” Their twitter bio appended #CommunityPolicing to the end of that same sentence. And echoing LAPD’s April 2020 substitution of PredPol with “Data-Driven Community Informed Policing,” the background banner on Geolitica's twitter page was changed from “The Predictive Policing Company™” to “Data-Driven Community Policing.”   

The homepage next to the new homepage
The homepage next to the new homepage

These rebranding maneuvers – turning “predictive policing” into using data to make police “transparent, accountable, and effective” – are strategies to make policing more durable. Whether via the original endeavor of “predicting” crime or today’s new framing, LAPD will continue to collect data to control and harm our people. The surveillance inputs, Palantir data processing systems, and policing outputs remain the same. In fact, replacing the discredited notion of “predictive policing” with the reformist footing of “police accountability” and “community” makes these systems more difficult to dismantle.

These rebrandings didn’t come out of nowhere. Police reform professionals had been advocating for a new phase of “predictive policing” for years. In summer 2020, we filed PRA requests with LAPD seeking their communications with academics who seemed complicit in efforts to expand data-driven policing. One of these academics was Andrew Ferguson, a law professor who wrote a book on data-driven policing. [285] In one of the emails we obtained, Ferguson writes the following to LAPD Deputy Chief Sean Malinowski in May 2019, just after Malinowski announced he would be leaving LAPD to work in the private and academic sectors: “When you leave LAPD can we chat for a bit? I have a suggestion about how I think you should approach predictive policing 2.0 in the private sector.” [286] Malinowski has been described as the “architect” of LAPD’s data-driven policing systems. [287] Ferguson went on to warn him about the criticism PredPol’s founder Jeff Brantingham (the UCLA professor) had faced, noting it "is bad for business and consulting." He explained that, “I think PredPol misread the sentiment about how to think about predictive policing and didn’t pivot to a more police accountability focus in time." 

Ferguson even offered this same rebranding advice to the companies that sell predictive policing technologies. Public records show Ferguson emailing the product manager of HunchLab – a Philadelphia-based “predictive policing” business – in January 2018 with the “hypothetical question” of what they would do if “a city came to you and said, we are interested in using HunchLab technology primarily to improve police accountability.” [288] After the HunchLab product manager replied, Ferguson shared that he recently “found myself in the odd position of promoting HunchLab’s capabilities and insights” and noted “the potential bad press of predictive policing.” He reiterated his rebranding proposal, asking: “Have you guys thought about spinning out a new product (not predictive policing) but branded solely for police accountability?”

The HunchLab manager agreed that “[p]redictive policing has been increasingly vilified,” but he didn’t “think that a tool that incorporates produced harms to better manage patrols” – i.e., the “data for police accountability” branding that Ferguson proposed – “can exist without the crime prediction.” Ferguson quickly responded that the solution could be selling two products: “what if you said, look we have our patrol management system, but we also have another product for those departments that are concerned with police accountability over crime reduction.” But, he added, the two products don’t need to be any different functionally, only marketed in different ways: “both systems would have both crime prediction and patrol management, but it would be just pitched differently.” This would, Ferguson explained, benefit a police chief who fears “if I buy a predictive policing patrol management system I am going to get grief by everyone from the ACLU to the community (because the bloom is off the rose of predictive analytics).” But if the system is simply marketed differently, then that police chief “will get credit from the community of caring about police accountability and won't have to deal with the predictive policing backlash.”

Our PRA requests to UCLA seeking Jeff Brantingham’s communications later revealed Ferguson advising the PredPol founder too. An April 2019 email from Ferguson to Brantingham begins: “Just wanted you to know that I am sorry that all of this negativity is being directed at you personally,” and “I really don’t think it is fair to target you, or your academic affiliation, or anything but your ideas.” [289] Of course, Brantingham’s name, face, and academic affiliation were constantly used by both LAPD and PredPol to promote the technology. Next in the email comes Ferguson’s advice: “you should promote your papers showing that you can balance race or other factors as a technical matter and it is all about how the police (not the companies) choose to calibrate the algorithm.” Ferguson’s point seems to be: companies like PredPol shouldn’t be blamed for the racial terror that police use their products for, since those stem from how police “choose to calibrate the algorithm.” But as we’ve seen in Skid Row, this is precisely the problem: police calibrate these algorithms however they please, while citing the academic affiliation and origins of the systems to claim their violence is scientific.

Ferguson later published an academic article on his idea of rebranding “predictive policing” as an “accountability” platform, asking “whether the same big data policing technologies built to track movements, actions, and patterns of criminal activity could be redesigned to foster data-driven police accountability.” [290] He also forwarded his emails with HunchLab to Chief Malinowski, which is why we were able to obtain them through PRA requests. In October 2018, a few months after those emails, HunchLab was bought by ShotSpotter, a company selling “gunshot detection” systems that consist of microphone networks that dispatch police to locations where a gun was supposedly fired. [291] These systems are deployed to enforce racial segregation and gentrification, concentrated in Black and brown neighborhoods.

This past year, ShotSpotter was linked to the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. [292] The company’s products were also shown in a peer-reviewed 7-year study of 68 cities to have no positive benefits, [293] and news reports exposed that ShotSpotter staff manually alter the locations “detections” to fabricate evidence. [294] ShotSpotter’s incorrect detections have even caused false prosecutions. [295] But after acquiring HunchLab, the company now sells algorithmic products that harvest police data to supposedly “prevent crime” as well as “mitigate bias and over-policing.” [296] This along with PredPol’s rebranding into Geolitica and LAPD’s repackaging LASER into Data-Driven Community-Focused Policing represent the Predictive Policing 2.0 that police departments and police reformers have been looking for.

Surveillance Bureaucracy

In addition to the evolution into Predictive Policing 2.0, another way predictive policing has been “reformed” is through what we call surveillance bureaucracy. In 2020, we published a pamphlet titled Fuck the Police, Trust the People: Surveillance Bureaucracy Expands the Stalker State. [297] These surveillance bureaucracy efforts are the other side of the coin of reform. While some police reformers work to promote new policing innovations, as discussed in the prior section, others create the legal framework for acceptance, approval, and normalization of these technologies over time.

Even when framed as critical of these technologies, these reformist approaches accept that the technology is necessary or inevitable, just used excessively, incorrectly, or in a concerning manner. For example, in 2016, a collection of advocacy nonprofits led by the ACLU addressed “predictive policing” with a “Statement of Concern” calling for “continuous assessment,” proposed “tracking” the “demographics of the people involved,” and encouraged governing these harms through legal notions like “due process.” [298]   This statement was issued during a crucial time for the development of predictive policing programs, as well as our efforts to dismantle this violence.

Advocacy like this can be harmful to abolitionist movement-building. No matter the intent, academics and nonprofits who limit their criticisms of data-driven policing to the details and call for the reform of these practices buy into the racist premise that there are people whose policing can be scientifically or objectively justified. Regulations governing transparency, oversight, and auditing of predictive policing also allow police to claim official approval for their violence, so long as they followed the procedural steps. Even when reformers say predictive policing should be outright eliminated, there comes the question: what are they seeking instead? If they aren't committed to police abolition, then do they just want police to use old-fashioned subjective racism?

These fights are not theoretical. The stakes are everyday banishment, brutalization, and killing of our people. And we are surrounded by well-funded efforts to institutionalize use of the same predictive policing we have been fighting to dismantle. For example, last year the ACLU of Northern California led a campaign to "ban" predictive policing in Santa Cruz, which was one of the first cities to experiment with predictive policing and is also where PredPol is headquartered. [299] Santa Cruz police had ended their predictive policing program in 2017, but last year the ACLU gathered a coalition of groups to enact an ordinance that they celebrated as a "ban" on the program. This is how ACLU lawyers as well as news headlines referred to the ordinance. But a quick look at the ordinance’s etxt reveals that police are authorized to use these tools upon “the city council’s finding that the data that informs the technology meets scientifically validated and peer reviewed research." [300]

As we know from our work to dismantle predictive policing in Los Angeles, finding "peer reviewed" support for oppressive policing tools is very easy, and in fact PredPol was developed by UCLA academics who tested the harm in LAPD’s Foothill Division and published their “scientific” findings in a peer-reviewed journal. So, sure enough, an L.A. Times article titled "Santa Cruz becomes the first U.S. city to ban predictive policing" notes that both PredPol and the local police chief had backed the ACLU’s rules. [301] In fact, the article makes that observation right after reporting that ACLU lawyer Matt Cagle “said he didn’t hear a single speaker oppose the initiative.” If the reason no one objects to your predictive policing ordinance is that police and PredPol both support it, then the harm of that ordinance ought to be clear as day.

This Santa Cruz example illustrates how reform, industrial, and academic forces can combine to make harmful policing more durable, as well as helping it spread. Put simply, t he ACLU, PredPol, and local police collaboratively used legal tools and “democratic process” to get the community behind an ordinance that codified predictive policing. As soon as the law was enacted, PredPol declared that their tool will meet the approval criteria. HunchLab/ShotSpotter (another predictive policing company) have also said they expect to meet the criteria, and Palantir is reportedly working on the same. If those companies win this approval from Santa Cruz’s City Council, they can go around the country saying their harmful tools were approved under rules the ACLU championed.

That experience of Santa Cruz also hints at the legacy of colonization and colonial governance. The ACLU ordinance lists criteria for approval of predictive policing to be voted on by the local City Council, which has become Republican-controlled as part of the city’s recent demographic shift into a wealthy white enclave not far from Silicon Valley. Those constituents will no doubt need to use policing to maintain their control of the land, to clear more properties for their benefit, and to enforce the “security” their rule has always required. This is what the process of conquest has always been about.

The role of reformers in this evolution is to supply police with concepts and structures that they can use to sanitize or defend their violence. In this way, reform is a process not just of expanding police but also suppressing resistance. This too is part of the long history of occupation and domination. When violent force and removal are considered unsavory, occupying forces employ counterinsurgency tactics, which can range from “intelligence” gathering to “winning hearts and minds.” Ideological and technical exchange between the military and police agencies are not only evident in the military-grade equipment used by police departments obtained through program 1033 to repress mass dissent [302] ; it also shows up in “soft” forms through what some military strategists have called “armed social work.” [303]

The Data-Informed Community-Focused Policing framework that LAPD launched the same month it ended PredPol expressly blends data-driven policing with the notion of “community policing.” We next turn to that notion.

Community Policing=Policing of Community

“Racial and ethnic minorities may perceive the police as lacking lawfulness and legitimacy, based in part on their interactions with the police or other influences (social media, news stories, etc.). This can lead to distrust of the police, which has serious consequences for law enforcement. Lack of trust equates to illegitimacy of police authority, which in turn leads to an inability for the police to function effectively.”
— LAPD’s “Data-Informed Community-Focused Policing” Announcement (April 2020)
“Legitimacy determines the transaction costs of political and governmental power. Low legitimacy may breed contempt on the part of the population and may require extensive prodding and incentives by the government to secure compliance of the population; high legitimacy generally invites compliance by the population and therefore requires less effort by the government to ensure compliance. An illegitimate government’s only method of controlling its population is coercion, which can be resource intensive.”
— U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual (May 2014)

LAPD’s marriage of “community” and “data-driven” policing in the Data-Informed Community-Focused Policing program today is part of a strategy of counterinsurgency. Both “community” and “data-driven” policing are the current era’s prevailing police reform trends, and they help complement and secure assent for police violence. As noted in a profile about Bill Bratton’s views on predictive policing and the impact on policing practices nationally, “Predictive policing relies crucially on community engagement—it can work only when the police are seen as part of the neighborhood, rather than as an occupying presence.” [304] In that vein, “community policing” helps map the community for purposes of the racist police exercise of “predicting” crime, as well as helping police pacify resistance to that violence.

Proposals for “community policing” are typically loudest after mass mobilization against police violence, moments when people are trying to take power away from police. As the quotes at the top of this section show, these strategies all but literally take a page out of the Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual, which was written to instruct U.S. forces on how to ensure “peaceful” imperial rule over the distant lands they occupy. [305] Much like the U.S. military that LAPD funnels tactics, weaponry, and personnel from, LAPD also enacts colonial violence in our communities, ethnically cleansing land and enforcing exploitation and resource extraction, while also attempting to maintain the veneer of legitimacy in order to subdue resistance.

While the tactics are as old as policing itself, the term “community policing” began to be used in the 1970s to address the police’s “public relations problem” after violent repression of the anti-war and civil rights movements. Using the U.S. DOJ’s definition of community policing, PredPol – which in March 2021 rebranded as a “#CommunityPolicing” company – says the term refers to a “proactive style of policing” focused on preventing crime before it happens. [306] A significant source of funding for community policing has been the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program, created by the 1994 crime bill written by then Senator Joe Biden. Rejecting mass demands to defund the police, President Biden’s FY 2022 budget “more than doubles grant funding for the COPS Hiring Program” compared to even the highest yearly amount allocated by the Trump administration. [307]

The overall objective of “community policing” is embedding police deep into communities, where they recruit ambassadors and informants, collect data on neighborhood relationships, spread propaganda about their work, and offer resources that people have otherwise been denied. The basic premise of community policing is that embedding police in neighborhood relationships as well as using them to deliver vital social services will help people perceive police as part of the community rather than a violent force. The ultimate goal is to pacify criticism of police and secure assent for police terror, a parallel to how the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency tactics serve to provide political cover for violent imperialism and occupation.

LAPD’s Community Safety Partnerships (CSP) Program

LAPD’s predominant community policing program today is called Community Safety Partnerships (CSP), which first formed in 2011 as a police force within public housing residences managed by the city’s public housing agency, HACLA. Today the program continues to sap vital HACLA funding, which is slated to “reimburse” LAPD around $8.75 million for the five-year period running from January 2021 through December 2025. Residents of the HACLA complexes where CSP was first deployed describe it as yet another campaign of racial terror by police, turning public housing buildings into penal colonies. Jaime Zeledon, who lived in the Jordan Downs HACLA development, recalls: 

“We were told there was going to be a new security program that would involve LAPD. The experience I had with this program is negative. This is a discriminatory and racist program that targets people of color in housing developments. We’ve seen how the police take photos of them nude and put their names in their database. It’s labeling them as gang members and criminals. And if you’re Latino it’s worse. If you don’t have documentation, the LAPD turns them over to ICE.” [308]

Another resident, Daisy Vega, describes CSP’s purpose as banishment in service of gentrification, which can occur through the Rental Assistance Demonstration program that displaces public-housing tenants and introduces market-rate housing into HACLA complexes:

“They need to reinforce these areas with police force so if people that are removed they happen to come back and find they would no longer qualify, the police would be there to further oppress them.” [309]

These views are not isolated, and police know that. According to a 2016 study conducted by Craig Uchida, the academic consultant hired to build LASER, a majority of L.A. agree (and over a quarter “strongly agree”) that LAPD does not “treat people of all races and ethnicities fairly,” a perception that is “consistent across the city, but most pronounced in South and Central Bureaus.” [310] For LAPD, this widespread distrust and aversion to violent, racist policing is simply a false “perception.” This is the mentality of the abuser, telling people hunted by police that they misunderstand what they’re experiencing. If you speak to people actually experiencing this abuse, they know exactly what it is. A letter written by Margaret Totty, who managed a portion of the redevelopment of the Jordan Downs HACLA complex and through that work became “familiar with several officers within the Community Safety Partnership group of LAPD” narrates this point perfectly:

“CSP officers told me how they tried to organize a trip to a marine aquarium for the Jordan Downs children, but the parents wouldn’t let their children attend. They disparaged the parents as bad or neglectful for not allowing their children to attend. I responded that it made sense, considering the long history of police brutality and terrorism within the Jordan Downs community at the hands of LAPD. I asked how they expected parents to allow their children to go with the people that had kicked in their doors, set up, locked up, killed and targeted their sons, brothers, fathers, cousins and uncles. How could they expect people to feel safe with their children in the hands of perceived predators?” [311]

She concluded by explaining that her “point in sharing this is that [because of] the investment of resources” in violent policing, the effort “to change the face of the police is just not worthwhile.” She added that she “support[s] a reduction in LAPD funding, and CSP resources being diverted” to “groups parents can feel safe sending their children to for enrichment and activities.”

To LAPD and Craig Uchida, communities who do not “feel safe with their children in the hands of perceived predators” must be made to accept the police terror their communities have always experienced. The solution was not ending police terror but “changing that perception,” and according to Uchida, two “programs” with “demonstrated success” on that front were “Community Safety Partnership program and Collective Efficacy.” This term “collective efficacy” is one that LAPD and its partners frequently use to describe partnerships between police and “stakeholders” invested in policing. As Uchida has described, collective efficacy entails “watching out for other people and their property” and “monitoring people hanging out.” [312] In other words, this approach deputizes widespread punitive surveillance and helps recruit people into policing’s ideologies.

Of course, these programs never fool the communities who actually experience police violence. Instead, the goal is securing political cover, helping win more resources for police and build tied to those who depend on violent policing to thrive. To that end, LAPD’s community policing is a strategy of relationship-building with local businesses, non-profits, and community collaborators who help extend the reach and power of policing. LAPD developed the CSP program in collaboration with two local nonprofits who proudly trained the officers deployed into the community, the Advancement Project and Urban Peace Institute. [313] These functionaries of the state extend policing’s grip on our communities.

Community Policing in LAPD’s Cycle of Increasing Violence

Just a month after the George Floyd uprising last summer, Mayor Garcetti and LAPD announced that the CSP program would be expanded into a full LAPD bureau. Joining Garcetti at the press conference to make this announcement was Advancement Project co-founder Connie Rice, who proclaimed: “The CSP Bureau is a serious commitment to the vision of guardian partners as the future mindset of American policing. Guardian policing is the path to ending the warrior culture of impunity that millions are marching to end.” In reality of course, the slogans on the street were predominantly “fuck the police” and “defund the police,” not “guardian policing.” But Rice is an example of community “leaders” propped up by police to promote an institution that has always been used for racial terror, usually at the moments the communities are most loudly naming the violent reality of policing.

In 2016, Connie Rice and LAPD chief Charlie Beck – under whose tenure LAPD killed more people than any police force in the country – wrote an op-ed titled “How Community Policing Can Work.” [314] The op-ed was framed as a response to the latest spectacular police killings of Black people, referencing in its first sentence “the shooting deaths of black men like Alton B. Sterling and Philando Castile” (note how “shooting deaths” is phrased as though the men simply died, not that they were killed, unlike the op-ed’s reference to “recent murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge”). From there the authors went on to promote “guardian policing.”

Nonsense proposals like “guardian policing” are the common ground that police leaders and police reformers always rush to during rebellions. A week after the George Floyd rebellion, Rice took to the L.A. Times with another op-ed pushing this very same point. [315] A year later, she joined with Beck again to repeat the proposal in U.S.A Today, now with the headline, “We made policing safe and fair.” [316] Rice and Beck joke in one of their op-eds that “the Hatfields and the McCoys shared more affection than we did.” In reality, Rice – who LAPD gave her own designated parking spot at police headquarters – had previously described Chief Beck as a “prince of the realm.” [317] This dynamic of professional police reformers and police performing disagreement but locking hands to undermine abolitionist movement-building is now a familiar ritual. This is what we mean when we say “community policing” is a strategy of counterinsurgency. 

Rice and Beck have even admitted that “guardian policing” is the “same remedy” police reformers have trotted out in response to Black rebellion for over half a century, going back to “the urban unrest of the 1960s.” [318] As we wrote in response to LAPD’s efforts to use the 2020 rebellion to win more resources, this cycle of using police violence to secure new funding and powers has time and again ensured further brutality: “Throughout history, city officials have responded to LAPD mass violence at protests by rewarding police with new resources instead of addressing the roots of the community’s outrage. Time and again, this cycle has served to expand LAPD violence, leading to further protests and police crackdowns.” [319]

Police reformers like to say that abolitionists are utopian. But it’s the reformist notion of policing free from racial terror, domination, and violence that has never existed in reality. Whether as a deliberate scam or naive fantasy, police reform keeps helping secure more resources, power, and assent for violent policing. When announcing the CSP bureau, Mayor Garcetti described a “major step forward in our work to reimagine policing in Los Angeles.” Along with that step would be major funding for this new initiative. Defying popular demands to defund policing (a study commissioned by LAPD showed that 62.4% of Angelenos support proposals to “redirect some money currently going to the police budget to local programs” and 36.7% support proposals to “completely dismantle police departments and give more financial support to local programs” [320] ) the current LAPD budget claims that “CSP’s success will serve as a blueprint for the future of law enforcement.” [321]

CSP, Military Counterinsurgency, and Real Estate Development

Although the CSP program is now a growing line item in LAPD’s budget, it was originally funded through philanthropy from real estate developers and other wealthy elite, alongside federal funding directly linked to U.S. military counterinsurgency operations. In 2012 the federal COPS program gave LAPD $6.43 million to pay three years of salary for officers who were required by COPS to have spent at least “180 consecutive days of active military duty post September 11, 2001.” LAPD deployed these former troops – many of them fresh from occupying Iraq and Afghanistan – solely to CSP programs in public housing developments. Adopting the language of foreign deployments, LAPD said these troops were the “primary LAPD ambassadors to the residents and are intimately involved in all community activities and concerns, as well as monitor [sic] and control criminal activities.” [322]

In addition, Goldman Sachs made an anonymous donation of $250,000 to fund one CSP site, as mentioned above in part 5. Three of the first CSP sites were also funded with $750,000 from the Ballmer Group, run by the billionaire owner of the L.A. Clippers as well as a massive new sports complex near SoFi stadium. Ballmer’s grants paid for three years of funding for officers to join the CSP program. According to LAPD’s 2020 budget, “the Ballmer Foundation stipulated that any site it supported in its infancy would need to be fully integrated into the Department’s operating budget by the conclusion of the agreement.” [323] In other words, Ballmer mandated that the city match his funding with permanent tax dollars after his donation expired.

Along with developer, investor, and military support, the expansion of the CSP program has also depended on academics who have a history of working closely with police. When the CSP program was converted into a full-fledged LAPD bureau, the mayor’s announcement celebrated a report released a few months earlier by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. [324] The report’s “lead researchers” included Jorja Leap, a UCLA adjunct professor whose husband Mark Leap was LAPD Deputy Chief of Counterterrorism under Bill Bratton, as well as Jeff Brantingham, the UCLA anthropologist who founded PredPol. And serving on the “Advisory Committee” were Joe Buscaino, a cop-turned-City Councilman who quickly used the report to argue against popular demands for LAPD budget cuts, [325] and Gerald Chaleff, a police insider with “a long history of using LAPD violence to propose useless reforms and increased police resources.” [326]

The study was also funded by donors who paid for the expansion of the CSP program itself, including the Ballmer Group, as well as the Weingart Foundation (whose board includes Steve Soboroff, a real estate developer who sits on the Board of Police Commissioners), Caruso (one of the country’s largest privately held real estate companies), Cindy Miscikowski (Managing Partner of the real estate firm Ring Group, which owns several thousand apartments units across the city), and an anonymous private donor. A letter from hundreds of UCLA students and faculty along with several community groups condemned the study’s funding analysis, methodologies, and funding sources, naming the trend of real estate developers “funding pro-community policing research as a means to increase police presence in communities of color and incarcerate residents to contrive conditions of perceived safety for future gentrifiers.” [327]

Another function of community policing is to hold communities hostage, offering otherwise-denied resources through the hands of police, with a gun in their other hand. Since the Christopher Commission formed following LAPD’s beating of Rodney King, the LAPD has presented itself as a “service provider” serving a “client.” Today this notion is formalized in the CAPRA (Clients, Analyzing and Acquiring Information, Partnerships, Response, and Assessment) model that is part of LAPD’s Data-Informed Community-Focused Policing framework. [328] Naming both “direct” and “indirect” clients, the CAPRA model raises the question: who is actually being served by LAPD practices, programs, and policies? LAPD’s “indirect client” collaborations with real estate developers summarized throughout this report demonstrate whose interests police protect and serve.

More broadly, community policing is the other side of the coin to the deliberate underdevelopment, organized abandonment, and racial capitalism that we see in communities like Skid Row and South Central. Time and again, the state ignores and exacerbates the structural issues that create what it governs as “crime” – including intergenerational poverty, systemic racism, and housing insecurity, all of which are an inevitable and intended result of a violent settler state that survives by controlling land and either banishing or exploiting the people who live on that land. Instead of ever undoing or ending that violence, community policing secures more violence as the “solution,” responding to structural violence only through the police budget and violent force.

This cycle of violence is not an accident. It is the fundamental purpose of policing, part of the logic of conquest that spans the settler state’s entire history. The myth of benevolent community policing is a way to cloak that reality and undermine organized resistance to it.