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AI makes its way into law enforcement

From aiding new forms of transportation to mastering online games, artificial intelligence aims to establish itself in nearly every industry, including law enforcement. 

The International Business Machines Corp. defines AI as computers that mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. Artificial technology has the ability to automate certain jobs and teach itself how to improve.  

Within the last few years, AI software has quickly become a part of multiple industries, including retail, health care and education. According to a survey from the Ohio Capital Journal, nearly one third of college students use ChatGPT to complete coursework.

Artificial intelligence could be used to enhance public safety. Programs like enhanced facial recognition, video and image analysis, and DNA analysis are all different areas currently being researched. (Illustration by Noah Apodaca/Kokopelli)

Programs like ChatGPT have the capability to write reports, answer questions and engage in human-like conversations. While academic institutions continue to struggle with students’ use of AI, the technology also has the ability to transform the way law enforcement operates.  

The head of the NMSU Department of Criminal Justice, Dennis Giever, said the department has plans to develop a program that will help train law enforcement officials on how to de-escalate non-physical situations using virtual reality and AI. 

When fully developed, the AI-integrated program will give police officers different scenarios to respond to in a headset. How they respond to those scenarios will dictate how the system will move forward.  

“What we envision, and this really gets into AI, is that at some point you want these to be expert systems because real-world scenarios never go as planned,” Giever said. “We can’t write a script and expect every one of those scenarios to flow out.”  

While there is de-escalation training already in use, it is expensive and logistically challenging. The program Giever envisions could be developed from federal government funding, which is supplying a $4 million grant to a recipient that will soon be selected.  

In addition to de-escalation training, the program could also guide officers on how to handle scenarios that involve shootings. Through the virtual reality headsets, officers would be able to interact with someone on the screen.  

“Shoot or don’t shoot,” Giever said. “Timing that together with de-escalation training, and once again utilizing AI, will keep the scenarios realistic.”

Giever said an AI-generated training program would do a better job of mimicking real-world unpredictability. “That’s what the real world is,” Giever said. “It’s never predictable, and it never goes the direction you want it to.” 

According to the U.S. Office of Justice Programs, AI is still being researched in depth for its potential to aid in public safety. 

Enhanced facial recognition is a form of AI-based technology meant to serve law enforcement officers and other officials. It could allow law enforcement to better protect public safety. Some Americans agree with the idea, while others disagree. (Infographic courtesy of Pew Research Center)

Programs like enhanced facial recognition, public safety image analysis and DNA analysis are all different areas being researched. Uncovering criminal networks, detecting patterns of unusual behavior, and protecting critical infrastructure are other areas of the industry that could be assisted by AI.  

Despite numerous proposed benefits, a recent Kokopelli X poll showed most respondents (79%) believe AI would not better assist law enforcement agencies in their day-to-day activities and investigation efforts, while just 22% said the opposite.  

The Las Cruces Police Department is also using AI on a smaller scale. LCPD Interim Police Chief Jeremy Story said some officers choose to use ChatGPT or Grammarly to write and edit reports.  

“It’s a matter of time,” Story said. “[AI is] going to be part of policing in a number of areas very quickly, whether we like it or not. It’s just a matter of time.”  

LCPD is looking into using AI technology for predictive policing, which allows officers to strategically position themselves in certain areas based on predictive crime data.  

The better the technology and equipment, the more expensive it is, Story said. However, potential legal issues might keep law enforcement from joining the trend of using AI. According to Story, using the software could potentially lead to constitutional abuses among individuals who are subject to AI’s findings, especially if the AI is incorrect.   

“There is a lot of promising stuff, but again, I think there is going to be a lot of case law that comes down,” Story said. “The courts tend to be obviously behind, and it takes time to litigate stuff. So, these court cases give us guidance of what we can and cannot do constitutionally, which is ultimately about how we use AI.”  

According to the interim police chief, AI has a long way to go, but small steps forward can mean more efficient and streamlined work in the office. Until it’s approved by the courts, AI can still offer better efficiency in writing reports and general office tasks, which would allow police officers to get out into the community more than working at a desk.  

“We can streamline all of those tasks, those administrative tasks, and make them more efficient,” Story said. “It gives them more time to do the one thing that AI can’t do, which is a person on the street responding, interacting and doing crime prevention.”

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