DeFi the Police

Decentralized funding scenarios for security forces

“a democratic country is mature
when the armed forces are
perfectly integrated in the civil society”
(N. Bobbio)

The “Defund the Police” claim emerged out of BLM demonstrations and quickly transcended into a movement that opened a confrontation about the police funding. I was naturally drawn to read it “Defi the Police” and went to see how far this rabbit hole could go.

My objectives are the following:

  1. I will explore the field and trace some use case candidates for decentralized technology
  2. I will present some Proofs of Concept

A few necessary disclaimers:

  1. I do believe that we need a certain level of management of violence
  2. The centralized management of violence (CMoV) is a vast field that changes by country, by the number and diversity of the forces deployed on the territory and by local issues. The average alert level of the police in Honduras is surely different than the one in any European country.
  3. I have based this research on direct interviews carried on with officers of the Italian police, military personnel and other professionals working for NATO: these interviews’ confidentiality is covered by the Chatham House Rule.
  4. I will treat police and army forces as a whole under the name Security Forces (SF). Reasons in place beyond the pure simplification are:
  • a process of merging between the police and the army has been in place since 9/11. Some examples: 1) the Strade Sicure (“safe streets”) program in Italy 2) the Operation Temperer in the UK 3) the Operation Sentinel in France.
  • during the Jan the 6th 2021 Capitol attack military personnel supervised police operations.
  • very often the police and the military work together in the fight against drug cartels and organized crime.

This process could naturally result in the police and the army being more permeable, which brings that changes in one body will very likely affect to some extent the other.

Tidbits of interest about Security Forces

  • SF members could be considered members of an oath-based caste (“once a cop, always a cop”), which is appointed but not elected, and carries the downside of a lower degree of job-mobility throughout a professional’s life.
  • SF obey constitutionally-elected representatives, who have a higher turnover rate and can change political party at any time in most countries, regardless of the initial affiliation they were elected for. This leaves room to wonder whether the SF obedience to these representatives outrules the obedience to the Constitution itself.
  • they keep citizens safe from what they call the Social Alert, which is a list of social threats listed by a country’s government at a given time.
  • SF are funded by taxation.
  • SF supply-chain economics are intertwined with the hierarchy in command, which often leads to costly/inefficient/malicious allocations of budget and supplies and lowers the efficiency of logistics.

When are SF ‘good’?

  • when they fight organized and individual crime.
  • when they guarantee national and public security.
  • when they manage street order.
  • when they coordinate the population in case of catastrophic events.
  • when they make sure that infrastructures run.

When are SF ‘bad’?

  • when they act against the constitution.
  • when they use suppressive and excessive RoE (rules of engagement) during pacific demonstrations, or use any form of torture against citizens.
  • when they execute orders against our freedom of speech and press, our freedom of movement or assembly and identity rights such as genders, political status, or sanitary condition.
  • when they seize infrastructures, or obscure the internet on behalf of a boycotted, dictatorial government.
  • when they engage in a war against their country’s constitutional basis and without the consent of the citizens.

SF need secrecy for:

  • investigations.
  • target definition in war scenarios.
  • on-field communications.

SF need transparency for:

  • accountability at every step of the chain of command.
  • budgeting and spending.

“Bugs” in the CMV

The interviews conducted highlighted inefficiencies, grey areas that often incentivize malicious behaviors on behalf of the SF, and could be potential candidates for decentralized technology.

  • the centrally determined resource-allocation is often not efficient, creates wrong supply allocations (e.g. all police officers in Italy must switch to winter/summer uniforms at given dates, despite the very different temperatures in the North and in the South) and leads to storehouses filled with unused material.
  • doped contracts. There can be conflicts of interest when high-rank officials sign supply contracts with specific contractors.
  • contractors of the SF can overprice basic items (the case of the $10,000 toilet cover), and/or offer supplies of poor quality.
  • asset forfeiture: when a of police department does not account properly seized cash and valuables (e.g. finding €10k in cash, reporting €5k), which often uncovers vicious circles of corruption.
  • centralized communications, both administrative and operational, can be hacked and manipulated.
  • the long bureaucracy around passports.
  • bonus KPIs. Police districts have to reach government-set KPIs (along the line of the social alert) in order to obtain bonuses and get more funding. Unfortunately, most of these KPIs incentivize corrective measures, like the number of arrests (note: the same person can be arrested several times for the same crime, and still contribute to reach that KPI), and do not incentivize preemptive ones. There are not enough incentives for Police Districts to work on crime prevention programs that can impact communities at large.

“Gimmicks” in the CMV

By “gimmicks” here I mean procedures and interesting aspects within the SF that can help the above mentioned points of potential innovation:

  • orders must be as executed unless they clearly constitute a crime. In many countries, an officer are entitled to ask for a formal request for explanation when they are given an order they deem unlawful. Clearly this does not happen very often because the long bureaucracy and the stigmatization in the workplace an officer might go through.
  • there can be exceptions to the hierarchy when an officer, who is in charge of a special section or premise due to his/her special knowledge or skills, disagrees with a higher rank’s orders.
  • the rules of engagement (RoE) of a city’s police department are decided at the local public administration’s level: the government emanates the norm, but then that norm needs to be articulated into RoEs by the mayor and all the forces involved in a city’s security.
  • SF rely on more metrics than before, and today include as well the “popularity rate” on social media of certain events or decisions.
  • Today we not only have embedded media into SF, but also body cams on officers and many citizens use dash-cams on their cars along smart-phones.
  • Nato started a program in 2016 PsyOps conference in Tampa to improve the military “social” skills — something we can validate by seeing the amount of SF-owned YouTube accounts posting video of marines or officers doing drills, social challenges, addressing memes, etc. Although this could be intended as a spontaneous phenomenon, it is important to keep in mind that within SF nothing happens without higher ranks’ assent.
  • there are already some intersections between SF and blockchain technology: solutions for auditing the military’s spending, for supply tracking for components, a decentralized database for passports (a Dubai police’s project with Hyper Ledger).
  • the US DoD’s D.A.R.P.A. is working on a secure messaging system on Hyper Ledger for forward and backward secrecy in communications, self deleting live messages, one-time eyes only messages, defense against cyber attacks in on-field communication, and weapons monitoring.

PROOFS OF CONCEPT (PoC)

>>> PEER TO PEER PRIVATE SECURITY
(Kixunil and Specter, full article here).

The idea behind this PoC is to provide specific neighborhoods with a peer-to-peer protocol that creates bonds between customers (residents) and patrolling guards. In this system customers, after having proven their identity by burning a given amount of crypto-currency, install a RCF (random coin fountain) outside their house: a device that randomly releases tokens whenever checked with a badge by a guard. The more the checks, the higher the odds a guard has to get coins out of a fountain. A 1-to-1 reputation system is in place so that every householder can give reputation points to a guard, but only for what concerns her own RCF: a higher reputation score will increase the odds that a customer’s RCF will spill out coins whenever checked by that guard, while a lower score will diminish the odds, dis-incentivizing the guard to come check that house any longer. A special call for help feature in also in place: whenever a customer is in danger inside her own house she can trigger this function that will boost the general odds of her RCF token spill-out, attracting more guards.

While this is a very interesting model to iterate upon, there’s in my opinion a fundamental ethical problem with the lucrative game-theory behind: only those residents who can afford establishing “good” relationship with guards ( hence increasing the coin-odds of their RCFs = spending more tokens) can benefit from a security service, leaving behind less wealthy residents and boosting the already problematic phenomenon of gated communities.

>>> BOTTOM-UP POLICE INCENTIVES

I have formulated a very primitive PoC which aims at intersecting the already mentioned social alert and those derived KPIs that constitute milestones for bonuses and extra-funding for police departments. In a nutshell: citizens could gather and launch new crime-prevention KPIs through proposals, which would get funded by other citizens through voting, and directly subsidize those police departments that activate on each proposal.

Here’s how it would work:

Claim Phase _ Citizens can claim SBT (Soulbound Tokens), certified and released by an address of the local public administration (PA). The PA will make these SBT available for redeem upon the stake, in stable-coin, of a fraction of the so called “TIS”, or “tax on indivisible services”, which amongst other voices includes streets cleaning, public lights and, precisely, security (this is how this taxation is organized in Italy, in other countries the voice “security” may fall into other taxes). Every SBT-owning address is entitled to 100 voicing credits within a ballot-budgeting smart contract.

Proposal Phase _ Within the smart contract, citizens with SBT can propose new crime-prevention Strategies. These Strategies must entail sets of KPIs and Milestone checks — it is worth-mentioning that at local level many consortia and NGOs exist already, who carry on bottom-up neighborhood crime prevention programs. While Strategies are proposed individually, proposers can add other SBT addresses as Strategy Watchers.

Vouching Phase _ This phase allows police districts to tie-in officer IDs to a Strategy. Tie-in means committing a given amount of these officers’ weekly workload (in hours) to that Strategy’s KPIs and Milestones. This process is irreversible: once a Strategy is chosen, officer IDs cannot be re-assigned to another Strategy.

Round _ During this phase, citizens with SBT can allocate their voicing credits to different strategies via quadratic voting (QV). Here they would be able to vote on more than one strategy and match their tax advance to the voicing credits. During this phase police districts would activate around the chosen Strategies and assign officers’ time to them. Strategy proponents and Strategy Watchers will validate that every Milestone’s KPIs are fulfilled, determining an ongoing reputation which would attract more voters, or disaffect them and having them move their voicing credits to other Strategies.

Fund Release _ at this point, every police department will get the funding from their vouched Strategy, depending on the amount of voicing credits it holds.

Matching Pool and Negative Voting _ All the remainders that might be left out of a quadratic voting (e.g. Alice gives 9 votes to Strategy A = 81 credits + 4 votes to Strategy B = 16 credits, leaves out 3 voicing credits) would end up in a matching pool to reward the best performing Strategies. Also, since voicing credits represent portions of each citizen’s tax advance, negative quadratic voting might be an unnecessary complication to implement.

With the present article I intended to provide a list of documented insights and personal reflections on the evolution scenarios of what I consider the ultimate centralization web3 technology can address. I am aware of the many aspects left uncovered and the ones that might still lack solid background. Also, my PoC could potentially intersect DeFi in creating incentives for SBT holding citizens when voting for Strategies with better performances = higher reputation.

If you think I might have missed, misjudged something or if you feel you can bring some clarity and add more ideas and want to join the conversation, please! join the Telegram discussion group here.

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