Two years ago, I reported on an absurd claim about how the Riverhead Police Departments’ surveillance drones could be used to create a “community connection.”
Splitting Riverhead’s current police foot patrol sector into two sectors would “create more of a community connection in the area that the officers are patrolling,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said. “There’s more eyes and ears in the area, and hopefully that will lead to more people coming to shop and recreate in downtown more.”
In my story I noted how the Department of Justice’s guidebook the “Community Policing & Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Guidelines to Enhance Community Trust” was designed to help law enforcement convince the American public to accept surveillance drones.
“The Police Foundation, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, has developed this guidebook to help public safety agencies successfully assess the appropriateness of acquiring a sUAS in their jurisdiction, all the while ensuring public support, avoiding public-relations pitfalls, and enhancing community trust along the way.”
A recent Fox 5 DC story about traffic cameras could rise to the top of my absurd reasons to convince the public to accept more police surveillance.
A police watchdog group from Arlington, Virginia seems to have applied all that they have learned about convincing the public to accept police drones and applied it to traffic cameras. (To learn more about Arlington police drones click here.)
“The Arlington Police Practices Group formed after the summer of racial reckoning and calls to root out racism in the justice system.”
“Among the most notable, the group suggested more automatic traffic enforcement, aimed at taking the possibility of racial bias off the table by reducing the need for traffic stops.”
So let’s think about the Arlington Police Practices Group’s reasoning for a moment.
Does anyone really think that giving law enforcement more ways to surveil people of interest or people of color will actually reduce racial bias?
The claim made by the Arlington Police Practices Work Group which is made up of law enforcement and private citizens does not pass the smell test.
Having cameras basically removes the human element. It’s just a machine. It clocks you going too fast or it clocks you going through an intersection too late into the light cycle,” Allison Carpenter, traffic subcommittee chair said.
So, let’s play along and say we believe their claim that adding more speed cameras will help reduce racial bias traffic stops.
Law enforcement can use always-on traffic cameras to track a motorist’s movements throughout a city.
Police can ask private companies like Redflex, Verra Mobility or Xerox for specific details about a motorists’ driving history. Traffic cameras record all of a drivers’ personal information; license plate numbers, names and addresses of the driver[s] and where and when they arrived at a specific location. High definition traffic cameras could also be equipped with facial recognition, making it easy for law enforcement to ID and target specific individuals.
It is also extremely hard if not impossible, to fight electronic speeding or red-light camera citations. Courts across the country have denied motorists’ claims that speed cameras are unconstitutional. It gets even harder for motorist’s to prove that police departments are not using speed and red-light cameras to generate huge profits.
Not surprisingly, Scott Wanek the president of Arlington Coalition of Police, said they were not thrilled with the idea of replacing police officers with more surveillance cameras.
Wanek said the police were “not thrilled” about the possibility of limiting traffic enforcement, which he argues helps prevent more serious crimes. “We’re taking a lot of illicit firearms and drugs out of vehicles on traffic stops,” he said. “I haven’t heard a way to effectively replace that.”
And in Litchfield Park, Arizona a city manager made an absurd claim that installing license plate readers would help the community maintain a “safe lifestyle.”
Interim City Manager Matthew Williams stressed Tuesday the cameras will not monitor speed or traffic signals, and the technology does not use facial recognition. Williams says the system will help the community maintain a “safe lifestyle.”
There are a couple of things that I should point out about Litchfield Park. Number one, it is almost entirely composed of affluent White people according to a 2010 Census.
“The racial and ethnic composition of the population was 74.3% non-Hispanic white, 3.5% black or African American, 1.0% Native American, 4.1% Asian, 0.1% non-Hispanic from some other race, 2.8% two or more races and 15.4% Hispanic or Latino.”
And number two: Litchfield Park plans on sending all the information that 32 Flock Safety license plate readers collect to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. This is the same office that was run by ‘America’s toughest sheriff’ Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Claiming that Flock Safety’s “Total Analytics Law Officers Network” or national license plate tracking network will help affluent people “maintain a safe lifestyle” is infuriating.
As I wrote about last year, Flock Safety’s license plate tracking program is built on fear.
Flock Safety’s claim that it is possible to leverage technology to eliminate crime is based on stoking the publics’ fear that no one would dare commit a crime in their neighborhood if police surveiled everyone 24/7.
It is also worth noting that Flock Safety’s “ethically-designed” data can also be used to send immigration-related alerts to Fusion Centers.
It seems that not even a pandemic can stop law enforcement’s desire to surveil and track everyone.