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The CUPP Manifesto: A shared framework


Focusing on critical research and engagement, the CUPP partners have agreed to work within a shared framework of understanding (October 2021).

CUPP Manifesto: Critical Understanding of Predictive Policing (2021-2024)

The aim of the CUPP project is to critically engage with the implications of new technologies and advanced data analysis in relation to police work. We both have an eye on the social, cultural, and political spheres, with a focus on risks as well as benefits, and include the differing perspectives of relevant stakeholders, whether police or non-police.

As the first major European research project to undertake a comprehensive and cross-border study of digital transformation in law enforcement in practice and of its consequences, the CUPP partners have agreed to work within a shared framework of understanding, based on the following approach:

Moving beyond speculation

The rapid evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, data mining, and data analysis also means an expanded toolbox for law enforcement. Big data and predictive analysis are now imperative for police work, along with increased mass surveillance.

Digitalization and advanced data analysis do not simply add new tools for police work, but also implies new relations between citizens and the state, new forms of law enforcement, and rises a number of emerging issues and concerns, notably in times of economic crisis and increasing social inequality and societal change.

The use of digital technologies and big data in police work has raised considerable attention in policy, media, legal, regulatory, and academic debates. However, these debates are often speculative, whereas the actual technological capacities for surveillance, forensic investigation and prevention largely go further than existing research on the new digital landscape.

As a relatively new research area, we still in fact know very little about how AI, big data, and data-driven technologies impact on crime prediction, prevention and solving, or on the relations between the police and civil society.

In other words, we need relevant and updated concepts, methods, and insights that both examine how police officers are using data-driven technologies and how these are perceived by the data subjects. Simultaneously we also need to look at the logics and values behind the digital infrastructure in itself and on the wider issue of fundamental rights in society.

Developing a critical understanding

We aim to bring transparency to the critical investigation of innovative data-driven police practices – i.e. to open the ‘black box’ of the digitalization of law enforcement and connect the dots in data-driven police work.

Theoretically we apply an interdisciplinary framework at the intersection of the established academic fields of STS (Science, Technology and Society Studies), Critical Criminology, and Critical Big Data Studies to identify and explore the related effects and impact of data-driven police technologies on society and end-users:

  • Daily practices, institutional values, and top-level strategic decisions are all relevant areas to explore – including for example the lived realities for police officers and citizens alike; the IT professionals and developers behind the new technologies, etc.;
  • We investigate the shifts prompted by data analytics in terms of ethical, legal, social, and behavioural considerations;
  • We are interested in questions related to social and ethical concerns, human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as to the various data justice, security and privacy issues raised by the digitalization of law enforcement and their implications for democracy.
  • Geographically we focus on specific cases in the Nordic-Baltic region - Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Norway, Sweden - and the UK, while still retaining a cross-border and global orientation.

Promoting a critical engagement

  • Dissemination of insights and engaging in dialogue with relevant stakeholders and the public is a vital part of the research project. In this way the CUPP partners both aim to qualify our findings further and to push forward for the introduction of relevant new concepts, methods and practices.
  • Like in other domains, the police need to be accountable for the predictive actions and the credibility of their analysis. We therefore aspire to conduct research in this area, allying with social scientific research on innovation and critical police studies in order to shed light on the social dimensions and impact of policing in the age of big data.
  • We explore how public participation, transparency, ethical concerns as well as basic human rights are ensured in the procurement, implementation and use of digital policing infrastructures.
  • Special attention is needed to understand how transparent and accountable law enforcement institutions and policing innovations do and can come into being in practice.
  • We investigate to what extent police data analytics is a rationalizing force with a potential to reduce human bias, increase efficiency and improve crime prediction accuracy – including to what extent it might also constitute a risk factor entrenching opposite tendencies; i.e. reifying existing human bias and power relations, thus undermining social cohesion.
  • We will organize a series of citizen seminars in all six countries that will act as a platform for creating public debate and gather civil society around the issues addressed in this project as well as participating in the composition of an ideas catalogue.