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Anushka Gupta

16 November 2018

Artificial Intelligence

Voigt, Rob, et al. “Language from Police Body Camera Footage Shows Racial Disparities in Officer

Respect.” ​PNAS​, National Academy of Sciences, 20 June 2017,​.

AI as a Behavior Analyst

It seems like every other day there is news of an unjust case of racial disparity, many a times it

involves law enforcement. Body cams have shown the public the careless slaughter of African Americans

by law enforcement however there are many cases of racial disparity that aren’t accounted for. Who is

keeping track of all the verbal interactions that occur between officers and African American people? It

has been stated that officers treat African Americans with consistent disrespect and researchers at

Stanford University created a computational model that collects evidence to support that assertion. The

computational model creates a “respect index” of sorts by picking up different linguistic features that have

predetermined scores to them. Their results showed that there was indeed a difference in the way officers

addressed white people as compared to African Americans. These results can be used to reconfigure

officer training and improve officer interactions.

One thing I found fascinating was the construct behind the model and how there was a huge

importance placed on gathering accurate evaluations of abstract concepts through surveying various

participants and in trying to create technology that thinks like a human, this survey revealed how similar

people are with respect to intuition. The survey asked participants to rate how polite or respectful some

phrases said my officers are and Cronbach’s alpha evidenced there was moderate to high reliability and

consistency among the responses or “data points”. And this brings up another point: math can be used to

validate or invalidate nearly anything and I never realized how far its applicability reached. I did some
external research of the statistical reasoning behind this model and though I haven’t learned how to do

that type of math in school, I still gained clarity about how statistical models are used as a base for


Technology was created to make life simpler and act as a tool for investigation and solving

problems. This scenario represents that perfectly. Social inequity is a plague that has rooted itself deeper

and deeper into America and this innovative approach to evaluating racial disparity in officer interactions

acts as a useful supplement to protests and contentious debates over social reform. There is now hard

proof thanks to this computational model that even accounts for contextual factors such as the severity of

the infraction or the outcome of the stop. And what is even more amazing is the outlook of this model.

Soon it could extend to being able to analyze intonation and “emotional prosody” as the article states it.

This would significantly decrease the likelihood for misinterpreting data on part of the computational

model, especially if paired with video capabilities to factor in facial expressions and body movement. An

interesting point that the article capitalizes on is using the data to evaluate the underlying causes,

surrounding environments, and derive a plan of action for overall amelioration. The data serves a higher

purpose than just proving a point.