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Racial disparity in Chicago cops’ use of force laid bare in new data

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Analysis of a trove of data extracted from the Chicago Police Department has revealed major differences between how Black and white officers, as well as male and female ones, actually enforce the law. This rare apples-to-apples comparison supports the idea that improving diversity in law enforcement may also improve the quality of policing.

Historically hard data from police departments has been extremely hard to come by, for a variety of reasons. As the authors put it in the paper:

Rigorous evaluation of the effects of police diversity has been stymied by a lack of sufficiently fine-grained data on officer deployment and behavior that makes it difficult or impossible to ensure that officers being compared are facing common circumstances while on duty.

… At present, a patchwork of nonstandard record-keeping and disclosure practices across roughly 18,000 U.S. police agencies has severely impeded broader policy evaluation.

This study by B.A. Ba et al., however, is based on highly detailed CPD records resulting from requests made to the department over a period of three years. It’s a collaboration between researchers from UC Irvine, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Columbia, and was published today in Science (access is free).

The records include millions of shifts and patrols from 2012 through 2015, which the team carefully sorted and pruned until it had a set that would allow the kind of analysis they hoped to do: comparing police work that is similar in all respects except the demographics of the officers doing it.

If on a Monday in March, in the same district at the same time of day, no serious differences could be found between Black officers and white officers, then race could be tentatively ruled out as a major contributor to how police do their work. On the other hand, if there were serious differences found, then that might indicate — as a topic for further study — the possibility of systemic bias of some kind.

As you might expect, the analysis found that there are indeed serious differences that, having isolated all the other variables, only correlate with the race of the officer. This may seem obvious to some and controversial to others, but the point of this work is not to assume or confirm assumptions, but to show plainly with data that there are disparities associated with race that need investigation and explanation.

Some of the specific findings can be summarized as follows:

  • Minority officers (Black and Hispanic, self-identified) “receive vastly different patrol assignments,” something that had to be controlled for in order to provide effective comparisons for the other findings.
  • Black officers use force 35% less than white officers on average, with most of the difference coming from force used against Black civilians.
  • Black officers perform far fewer “discretionary stops” for “suspicious behavior.”
  • Hispanic officers showed similar, but smaller reductions.
  • Female officers use force considerably less often than male ones, again especially when it comes to Black civilians.
  • Much of the disparity in stops, arrests and use of force results from differences in pursuing low-level offenses, especially in Black-majority neighborhoods.

The data show (as a sort of inverse image of the above list) that white male officers stop, arrest and use force more often, especially on people of color, and frequently as a result of minor crimes or “discretionary stops” with vague justifications.

This diagram shows a sampling of the collected data, indicating stops, arrests and uses of force by officers on a map of the Wentworth District of Chicago. Image Credits: Science

The researchers are careful to point out that as conclusive as the patterns may appear to be, it’s important to understand that there is no causal mechanism studied or suggested. In fact they expressly point out that the data could be interpreted in two directions:

One explanation for these disparities centers on racial bias, i.e., white officers are more likely than Black officers to harass Black civilians. Technically, it is also possible that Black officers respond more leniently when observing crimes in progress.

More study is required, but they point out that one explanation — leniency by Black officers on minor offenses — has very little effect on public safety (violent crimes are addressed largely the same regardless of race and gender). The other — systemic racism — is significantly more harmful. Though they are “observationally equivalent” in the context of this data specifically, they are not equivalent in consequence. (Nor in likelihood — nor are they entirely incompatible with each other.)

In a valuable commentary on the paper and its implications, Yale’s Phillip Atiba Goff notes that its findings are rich in implications that we ignore at our peril:

The magnitude of the differences provides strong evidence that — at least in some cities — the number of officers who identify with vulnerable groups can matter quite a bit in predicting police behavior. Although this does not settle the matter, the work stands alone in its ability to make apples-to-apples comparisons across officers — regardless of how many may be bad apples.

Given that Ba et al. find negligible demographic differences in officers’ responses to community violence, such a large difference in discretionary stops compels a reader to ask: Are any of those excess stops by white officers necessary? Should a department even be making them, given the demonstrated risk for abuse so evident in vulnerable communities?

Are any of those excess use of force incidents by white officers necessary? And if the excess force is not necessary for public safety, why does the department target Black communities for so much physical coercion? These questions are difficult to answer outside a broader engagement with the purpose of policing — and its limitations.

In other words, while it may require further study to get at the core of these issues, police departments may look at them and find that their resources are not necessarily being used to best effect. Indeed they may have to face the possibility — if only to refute it — that much of what officers do has little, no, or even negative value to the community. As Goff concludes:

With violence trending downward the past three decades, mostly troubling small geographic areas, and possibly occupying a small portion of police activity, what should the role of police be? Failing to take seriously the possibility that the answer should be “much less” may end up frustrating both researchers and a public that has been asking the question for far longer than most scientists.

This revealing study was only possible because the authors and legal authorities in Chicago compelled the police there to release this data. As noted above it can be difficult, if it is even possible, to collect large-scale data from any department, let alone from many departments for analysis at a national scale. The authors freely admit that their findings, in their specificity to Chicago, may not apply equally in other cities.

But that’s meant to be a call to action; if when finally given access to real data, researchers find problems of this magnitude, every department in the country should be weighing the benefits and risks of continued obfuscation with those of openness and collaboration.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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UK challenger bank Starling raises $376M, now valued at $1.9B

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Challenger banks continue to see huge infusions of cash from investors bullish on the opportunity for smaller and faster-moving tech-based banking startups to woo customers from their larger rivals. In the latest development, UK-based Starling announced that is has closed £272 million ($376 million at current rates), at a pre-money valuation of £1.1 billion.

This means that the round, a Series D, values the company at £1.372 billion ($1.9 billion) post-money.

Starling — which competes against incumbent banks, as well as other challengers like Monzo and Revolut — said it will be using the money to continue its growth. The bank is already profitable. In updated financials posted today, Starling said it generated revenue of £12 million ($16.6 million) in January of this year, up 400% compared to a year ago, with an annualized revenue run rate of £145 million. It posted operating profits for a fourth consecutive month, and net income currently exceeds £1.5 million per month.

Starling, founded in 2017, has now pased 2 million accounts, with 300,000 business accounts among them. It’s not clear how many of those accounts are active: the figures are for opened accounts, Starling said. Gross lending has passed £2 billion, with deposits at £5.4 billion.

Starling said it plans to use the funding both to expand its lending operations in the UK, to expand into other parts of Europe, and make some strategic acquisitions.

“Digital banking has reached a tipping point,” said Anne Boden, founder and CEO of Starling Bank, in a statement. “Customers now expect a fairer, smarter and more human alternative to the banks of the past and that is what we are giving them at Starling as we continue to grow and add new products and services. Our new investors will bring a wealth of experience as we enter the next stage of growth, while the continued support of our existing backers represents a huge vote of confidence.”

The round is being led by Fidelity Management & Research Company, with Qatar Investment Authority (QIA); RPMI Railpen (Railpen), the investment manager for the £31 billion Railways Pension Scheme; and global investment firm Millennium Management also participating, and it comes on the heels of us reporting in November that it was raising at least £200 million.

The funding comes at a critical time in consumer banking. The trend in the UK — the market where Starling is active — for the last several year has been a gradual shift to online and mobile banking, with those trends rapidly accelerating in the last year of lock-downs and enforced social distancing to slow down the spread of Covid-19.

Challenger (neo) banks have been some of the biggest winners of evolving consumer habits. Using rails provided as white-label services by way of APIs from banking infrastructure providers (another startup category in itself with companies like Rapyd, Plaid, Mambu, CurrencyCloud and others all involved) they will offer the same basic services such as checking and deposit, but they will typically do so with considerably  more flexibility, and additional savings and financial tips, and savings services to customers — all carried out over digital platforms.

Big, incumbent banks have scrambled to keep up with innovation, but newer generations of users are less beholden to their brands and incumbency, not least a result of the banking crisis last decade that revealed many of them to be cosiderably less competent and solid than many might have assumed.

That bigger market picture has also meant a surge of many neobanks, and so Starling competes with more than just the incumbents. Others include Monese, Revolut, Tide, Atom and Monzo — the latter a particularly acute competitor, founded by the ex-CTO of Starling.

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Deliveroo posted narrowed loss of $309M, with gross transactions surging to $5.7B in 2020, EITF shows

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The clock has officially started ticking on Deliveroo’s plans to go public in April. After announcing last week that it planned to list on the London Stock Exchange, today the on-demand food delivery company backed by Amazon and others published selected updated financials for the previous fiscal year, along with its Expected Intention to Float (EITF) — a more formal document that marks the two-week period until the company publishes its prospectus and, at the start of April, embarks on its subsequent IPO.

The bottom line is that Deliveroo is still unprofitable. It posted a 2020 underlying loss of £223.7 million ($309 million), but that figure was down by nearly £100 million from 2019, when it chalked up a loss of £317 million ($438 million). It did not disclose revenues (sometimes called turnover) in today’s statement.

The company said that it now serves some 6 million customers, with its three-sided marketplace also including more than 115,000 restaurants, takeaways and grocery stores, and 100,000 riders in 800 locations among 12 markets.

At the same time, Deliveroo showed some clear momentum in a year where many restaurants had to close their doors and shift operations to take-away models because of Covid-19.

It notes that it has been profitable on an “Adjusted EBITDA basis” over two quarters, with underlying gross profit up by 89.5% to £358 million ($495 million) compared to £189 million in 2019.

Its gross transaction volume (total amount spent by consumers ordering food) grew by 64% to £4.1 billion ($5.67 billion) with the run-rate in Q4 surging to £5 billion. This figure is unsurprising when you consider that Q4 represented the holiday period, and additionally the UK market (Deliveroo’s primary market and its home) went through not one but two different periods of being locked down in that quarter (the second of these is still in place).

It also notes that gross profit margin as a percentage of GTV has grown from 5.8% in 2018 to 8.8% in 2020, with some markets getting to 12%.

“The company remains focused on investing in driving growth in a nascent online food market,” it noted in the EITF, although I’m not sure nascent is exactly the word I’d use. Its drivers are easily the most visible of the many delivery services that exist in London. Deliveroo estimates that the restaurant and grocery sectors represent an addressable market of £1.2 trillion ($1.66 trillion) across the 12 regions where it offers services. In that figure, it says that just 3% of sales are estimated to be online, “equivalent to less than 1 out of the 21 weekly meal occasions being online.”

The company was valued at over $7 billion in it last fundraising, a $180 million round from Durable, Fidelity and others, as recently as January of this year.

It’s a huge leap that is the stuff that tech myths are made of (with untold hours of blood, sweat and tears, and a lot of luck too). I met Will Shu, the CEO and founder, when he was just really getting started at Deliveroo, and he seemed somewhat bewildered by how fast the startup was growing and where it was leading him. It’s interesting that he himself hasn’t forgotten those early days, either, which surely help keep the company focused at a time when there are a lot of opportunities, and therefore a lot of potential for focus unravelling.

“I never set out to be a founder or a CEO. I was never into start-ups, I didn’t read TechCrunch. I’m not one of those Silicon Valley types with a million ideas,” he noted in his letter published in the EITF. “I had one idea. One idea born out of personal frustration. An idea that I was fanatically obsessed with: I wanted to get great food delivered from amazing London restaurants.”

The prospectus will tell us how much the company intends to raise in its IPO so we’ll know those numbers soon. In the meantime, Deliveroo said that it plans to “invest in its long-term proposition by developing its core marketplace, enhancing its superior consumer experience, providing restaurant and grocery partners with unique tools to help them grow their businesses, and providing riders with the flexible work they value alongside security.”

It’s also going to continue building out “dark kitchens” (which it brands Editions); Signature, a white-label service for restaurants to offer delivery via their own online channels; Plus, a Prime-style loyalty subscription service; and on-demand grocery — which is also shaping up to be a huge market in Europe and the rest of the world.

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Porsche raises stake in electric car and components maker Rimac Automobili

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Rimac Automobili, the Croatian company known for its electric hypercars and battery and powertrain development, has gained yet another investment from Porsche AG.

Porsche said Monday it has invested 70 million euros ($83.3 miilion) into Rimac, a move that increases its stake from 15% to 24%.

This is the third time Porsche has invested into Rimac. The German automaker made its first investment into Rimac in 2018. Porsche increased its equity stake into Rimac in September 2019. A few months earlier, Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors jointly invested €80 million ($90 million at the time) into Rimac.

Rimac was founded by Mate Rimac in 2009 and is perhaps best known for its electric hypercars, such as the two-seater C Two that it debuted in 2018 at the Geneva International Motor Show. The vehicle produces an eye-popping 1,914 horsepower, has a top speed of 256 miles per hour and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 1.85 seconds. Rimac plans to unveil C Two in its final form in 2021.

However, Rimac does more than produce hypercars. The company, which employs 1,000 people, also focuses on battery technology within the high-voltage segment, engineers and manufactures electric powertrains and develops digital interfaces between humans and machines.

Porsche is most interested in Rimac’s development of components, according to comments made by Lutz Meschke, the deputy chairman of Porsche AG’s executive board. Meschke noted that Rimac is “excellently positioned in prototype solutions and small series” and “is well on its way to becoming a Tier 1 supplier for Porsche and other manufacturers in the high-tech segment.”

Porsche has already placed its first orders with Rimac for the development of highly innovative series components, according to Meschke.

Despite its continued investments, Porsche said it doesn’t have a controlling stake in Rimac.

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