NEW YORK — Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Council Member Brad Lander released the following statement in response to an Executive Order issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio establishing an Algorithms Management and Policy Officer, tasked with ensuring that city agencies develop algorithms in ways that promote fairness and accountability, but creates a potential loophole for law enforcement agencies.
“Data-driven decision-making has the power to totally transform how government allocates resources and serves people, for better or for worse. The algorithms being used to decide everything from where kids go to school, to who can get public assistance, and which neighborhoods are allocated more police attention must be assessed for equity and bias, else we risk recreating ingrained patterns of discrimination and inequality.
“We know from our work fighting to pass the Community Safety Act that structures for oversight and accountability are critical to reforming ingrained patterns in our policing. That’s why we are so disappointed to learn that under the new reporting requirements, law enforcement officials would have the potential ability to exempt certain data without specific justifiable cause.
“Decades of racially discriminatory policing have left us with troves of biased data that continue to inform today’s predictive policing algorithms, creating feedback loops that recreate harmful overpolicing in communities of color. Policies like stop, question and frisk taught us that institutionalized bias is hard to shake, and harder still when bias is masked by seemingly neutral calculations.
“New York has the opportunity to lead the way on ensuring equity, fairness, and accountability over algorithmic decision-making. We welcome the creation of the Officer of Algorithms Management and Policy, which can help us ensure that we are taking seriously the need for transparency and accountability in how algorithms work, what data they use to make decisions, and how they impact people. There cannot be an exemption for law enforcement, so we ask the administration to provide clarification and necessary change.”