Taser’s Free Body Cameras Are Good for Cops, Not the People

An interesting re-blogged article from Wired this morning, written and argued by Jake Laperrurque that I think shows an interesting view of the world from a US perspective on privacy and law enforcement. What do you think?

THE COMPANY FORMERLY known as Taser announced last week it’s offering free body cameras to every police officer in the United States. The one-year trial is likely to dramatically increase the number of body cameras used in law enforcement across

Body Worn Camera

the country. But citizens should be skeptical. Taxpayers might not have to pay directly for the cameras, now manufactured under the name Axon, but the devices will still come with significant costs, both to police and the communities they serve, as long as rules governing the cameras’ use don’t exist.

Body cameras aren’t a cure-all for police misconduct, but they can reduce the use of force and the abuse of police powers. They’re a tool for accountability, not a magic potion to fix community-police relations, and like any tool they need to be used properly. Without effective guidelines and community input, body cameras could fall short of the goal of enhancing accountability and, instead, actually decrease trust in police.

For example, when police haven’t recorded at critical moments or have failed to disclose footage, it’s led to serious backlash. And without proper rules, deploying police body cameras en masse threatens to create a pervasive surveillance tool and turn what is supposed to be a check on police into a worrisome increase in police power.

Unfortunately, as an analysis from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Upturn shows, police departments that receive federal funding have some of the least effective policies on issues ranging from privacy to accountability to public input. Departments that get cameras at a discount appear to spend less time considering their impact on all relevant stakeholders and planning accordingly, an unsurprising but still serious development. And now that Axon has entirely eliminated the cost of body cameras, that problem will escalate.

Before police departments begin using body cameras, it’s critical that they first devote serious effort into setting guidelines that will ensure these devices serve their intended purpose, and get input from affected communities. At my organization, the Constitution Project, our Committee on Policing Reform recently released a report that reflects a consensus set of recommendations from civil liberties advocates, former law enforcement officers, and former military officers. Hopefully these suggestions can help law enforcement address some of the most pressing and difficult questions they face in implementing body camera programs.

The most fundamental question with body cameras is, when should they be recording? Studies show that in order to avoid missing events that should be recorded, it’s best to offer clean-cut rules rather than looser, discretion-based standards, and to have clear and strict policies that cameras should be on whenever officers are interacting with the public or engaged in a police action. That said, civilians should know when cameras are on and have the opportunity to opt-out. This is key both for protecting individual privacy and in supporting law enforcement investigations, where officers often speak to victims and witnesses in sensitive situations where individuals don’t want to be recorded.

Another pressing question: When should footage be available to the public? Last year, after Keith Lamont Scott was fatally shot by police in Charleston, South Carolina, body camera footage captured the incident, but it was withheld from the public for days, creating a backlash and intensifying the controversy. This shows that using cameras but depriving the public of access to what the cameras record can backfire and actually degrade police-community relations. Unfortunately, many states have passed problematic laws that severely curtail public access, and sometimes even limit access to the footage by the individuals on camera seeking to file a complaint.

However, while providing some public access seems essential, it’s also important to safeguard individual privacy—and that means redacting personally revealing footage unless the subject of an interaction authorizes its release. Departments not equipped to review thousands of hours of video have faced problems with commercial and spam requests, sometimes conducted for the express purpose of overwhelming departments, that in no way advance the public interest.

States like Washington are taking the lead by creating lawsthat provide access, incorporate privacy protections, and include a formal process to prevent departments from being overwhelmed by access requests. Law enforcement departments that consider adopting a body camera program—along with other state legislatures—should look to Washington’s law and strive to create a similarly balanced system.

Another question that looms large: How to effectively regulate body cameras equipped with facial recognition technology? Facial recognition may still seem like Hollywood dystopia, but Axon plans to incorporate the capability into its cameras in the near future.

There is certainly a role for facial recognition in body cameras—it’s hard to imagine objections to using such technology to locate missing children or identify truly dangerous fugitives at large. But without limitations, these combined technologies could constitute an unprecedented threat to privacy and civil liberties and could mark the end of anonymity. Unchecked, they could be used for pervasive location tracking, or for identifying and cataloging participants at religious ceremonies, political rallies, or protests. Even if such abuse does not occur, the mere threat of it could chill participation in activities fundamental to democratic society.

If facial recognition is coming to body cameras, it should come with appropriate safeguards, like requiring police to get a warrant before using it, as many experts including criminal justice scholars and former law enforcement officers have recommended. Some communities might decide that the risk isn’t worth the reward, and, as Oregon did recently, prohibit the use of facial recognition entirely.

The Axon announcement further solidifies the fact that the overarching question for body cameras is not, “should police have them?” but rather, “since police are going to have them, how should they be used?” It’s critical for both law enforcement and the communities they serve that departments, citizens, and lawmakers tackle the tough questions about body cameras and how to set effective guidelines, and that they begin doing so now.

 

Thank you Jake.

Jake Laperruque (@jakelaperruque) is senior counsel at the Constitution Projects. He previously served as a fellow for New America’s Open Technology Institute and The Center for Democracy and Technology.

Meeting The Mental And Related Health Needs Of Veterans And Families In Wales – New Report

reblogged from Pathfinder International – with thanks!
Wales has one of the UK’s leading services for meeting the mental health needs of veterans, but a new review finds that more could be done to strengthen the national strategy in Wales to meet the needs of veterans and their family members…
The review entitled ‘Call to Mind: Wales’, highlights that while much progress has been made in recent years in Wales with respect to meeting the mental and related health needs of veterans, further improvement is required. Top priorities include increasing Veterans NHS Wales’ capacity, improving data to inform commissioning and service provision, improving mainstream services, and doing more to support families and carers.
The report is based on a series of stakeholder interviews in Wales with three groups: veterans and their families; statutory sector stakeholders; and those in the voluntary and independent sectors. Interviews were supplemented by a comprehensive review of key documents and engagement with fourteen voluntary sector organisations who work with veterans and their families in Wales.
The Wales review, part of a wider one-year review covering each of the devolved nations, was commissioned by the Forces in Mind Trust and conducted by Community Innovations Enterprise to build on a similar and well-received review carried out in England in 2015. The end result will be the first comprehensive assessment of how to meet the mental and related health needs for veterans and family members throughout the UK.

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Still Waters Run Deep

I live on what used to be a major road before another (bigger) road was built around a couple of miles from my house.

I was inspired to write this blog post by the road I live on mainly due to the fact that it was flooded near one end of it this morning.  As I look out of my office window I can see a few cars heading towards where it was flooded (I haven’t seen any cars turning around outside my house though – which is a good sign)..

You have probably heard all the warnings about not driving through flood water because you don’t know how deep it is???

Isn’t it funny how we never seem to be warned about not walking through people’s feelings without first thinking about the consequences?

One unthinking remark could do untold damage both to that person’s feelings and to any relationship you may have with them.

The band 10cc had a brilliant way of remembering to treat people with respect.  My favourite lyrics of the song “Dreadlock Holiday” are – “Don’t you walk through my words.  Gotta show some respect.  Don’t you walk through my words – you ain’t heard me out yet”.

I think the world would be a better place if we really listened to each other and treated each other with the respect we deserve (instead of the respect we sometimes think we deserve).

Five Stars For “Five Guys” ( Or – A Fastfood Restaurant Which Didn’t Supply A Fast Headache With My Order!)

Before I begin this review I would like to show you the effect that walking into places like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, etc, has on my eyes and my brain.

(My thanks to Derek Lee for permission to use the photographs in this blog post)


You are correct – it is a circular saw which appears to be unguarded

You may think this is an exaggeration – unfortunately, if anything it is an understatement.

Fluorescent lights, coupled with backlit menus stuck on walls at least 6 feet away from the counter (behind it), and furniture which is either too cluttered to be useful or screwed to the floor so you cannot move it, are not exactly my idea of fun.

I have even barred myself from McDonalds since they installed those “Self-Service” screens in their establishments.  This is only because I wanted to smash one to smithereens the first and last time I looked at it.  The screen is too big, too bright, and the font is way too small.  That is before you try to convince me that paying for my food using a Debit Card is easier than feeding coins into a machine.  (Less chance of fraud if you use coins.)

Here now follows a picture of how the “Five Guys” restaraunt on High Street in Leicester, made me feel;


That’s more like it – soothing water

OK – so the food was slightly more expensive than I expected it to be.  But at least you could choose your own toppings for your burger (the Brooklyn Beer is not bad either).  Oh – and you had a choice between salted fries and “Cajun” fries – these were more like proper chips of the kind you would get from somewere like “Awesome Chips” (outside the Haymarket on Belgrave Gate in Leicester) than the excuse for chips served up by most fastfood places.

However, the food wasn’t what made me like the place.

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What does it take to save a veteran?

Servicemen and women, our reserves and their families are, like the rest of us wanting to live their lives in peace and in a setting they have chosen. Of course most of us make compromises due to our age, health and lifestyle choices. But for many who find themselves in an accident, a victim of crime or even caught up in a major incident they may face what is euphemistically called “life changing injuries”. These injuries may leave mental scars instead of or as well as physical ones.

People who serve in our armed forces however may be ordered to places where they face truly horrific incidents; where they see what no person should see and attempt to deal with what no person should ever have to do. They are expected to function, under discipline to resolve whatever they have been directed to do. Life changing injuries of one sort or the other, or both may ensue.

This I believe sets them apart and it takes a special sort of courage to know that your job may place you in harms way. Hopefully through training and teamwork they will pull though, wiser and more experienced but not all will be so fortunate.

There are a multitude of organizations to support these service personnel, reserves and their families but as physical scars are clear and obvious at their inception the mental ones can often lie dormant for years.

And when the ‘boxed up’ troubling memories arise they can be denied or inappropriately self-treated and end up bringing the veteran into conflict with their family, their place in the community and into contact with the criminal justice system. Now clearly there are lots of charities, local services and organizations who can help prior to this point IF the veteran is prepared to find and accept the support available. However when you are on a downward spiral and becoming less outgoing this can be difficult to do.

This is where the Veterans Programme can help. A referral to us can make all the difference. When a veteran comes into the criminal justice system [CJS] we work with them to get them to realize the situation they are in. Often the CJS contact acts as a shock. Our team will work to help them retain their freedom and undertake restorative justice. Where other charities provide support for specific needs we not only signpost these but ensure the end user can access them. Support for families is vital at this time and coaching or mentoring can make the difference to the outcomes for these hurting folk.

Now one in four of us will have a mental health episode in a year. Everyone needs support and help but for our veterans who have put themselves in harms way to defend us and our freedoms it is right and proper that they are able to rely on the rest of us to defend and protect them from the injuries they have sustained in our service. A pension is not enough. That is why the vulnerable veterans programme is absolutely necessary.

Read more about the programme at www.smpl.org.uk

Ability, what is it?

Ability,  what is it and therefore what is disability? This question was posed to me during images-1a training run this morning. I was trudging through the town centre and saw an empty large car with a blue badge displayed, double parked, engine left running in the zigzag markings of a pelican crossing with the driver drawing cash at the adjacent ATM. He was middle aged and had a shuffling walk.

My immediate impression was of how selfish his behaviour was. Blocking half the carriageway, putting crossing users at risk and committing another offence, that of quitting. And I was a bit shocked that a disabled person should be so selfish. But then selfishness is not mutually exclusive to disability is it? But then the old boy needed his cash and was a bit wobbly walking.

The very next impression I had was of a couple, like me out running. They were travelling at least one and a half times faster than I was. They were in their thirties and holding a conversation as they ran. IN SIGN LANGUAGE!

So in comparison here was a guy utterly able to run at speed and sign with his partner causing no problems and making no demands on us or others safety. Brilliantly able.

What an example for others who have their own trails to run and mountains to climb. I want to be able, like the signing runners and not disabled like the driver. It’s my choice. And it’s your choice too.

Unknown

Drones, Privacy and Harassment

Recently there was a statistic published and repeated on Twitter stating that complaints about drone use to the police had risen 2000 percent “Calls To Police Over Drone Privacy Up By 2,000%” via Sky News.

UnknownThe article and the statistic authored by Adele Robinson, Sky’s Midlands Correspondent is well researched but the debate moved into whether the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 would be available to reduce the complaints about drones invading your privacy. Well yes, in England and Wales this Act could be considered but it is probably not the first legislation the authorities might look to.

This is because Section One of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 states that a persons actions (with or without a drone) must amount to a course of conduct and that they know or ought to know that [their action] amounts to harassment. Some point out that CPS guidelines “to amount to harassment one must show a ‘course of conduct’ on 2 occasions within a year.” So the Harassment Act is not going to provide a swift solution notwithstanding the police could issue a warning to the offender. This being the case what other common or civil law might apply?

Well while using a drone could ‘invade your privacy’ there is no specific law to protect your privacy, which point was reaffirmed when the House of Lords ruled in Home Office v Wainwright (a case involving a strip search undertaken on the plaintiff Alan Wainwright while visiting Armley prison).

However there are many pro-social uses for drones including their use by Search and Rescue teams. Such teams are civilian volunteers who work closely with police, fire and rescue, other charities and the Ambulance services of the UK. Their primary role is to find vulnerable missing people. This often requires them to search open areas of rough land. You can see that drone use perhaps using an heat source recognising camera by Search and Rescue teams could reduce the area to be searched. My point here is that there are quasi-official uses for drones that might impinge on someones property or privacy but that most folk would accept this was a lawful or social purpose. The use of a drone in this case would be a mere fraction of the cost of powering up, let alone flying a police helicopter. And of course such use is strictly guided by policy, procedures and insurance.

Fortunately there is legislation and guidance for all drone pilots not just the responsible ones which state you just need to have some common sense and safety rules. “Don’t fly near people, don’t fly over buildings, certainly don’t go near roads. Don’t fly over roads it’s just not sensible. At any moment your drone could drop out the sky, and no matter how much you prepare you need to be ready for that”. You need to fly responsibly.

The CAA provide a “dronecode” telling users not to fly higher than 400ft, or near aircraft or airfields, and always keep eyes on the drone.

The law also stipulates that drones fitted with cameras must not be flown within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings or structures, or over large gatherings.

However there is a problem with antisocial drone use – that of the potential remote user. If something goes wrong they may merely walk away. but just how big is the problem Sky New has highlighted? A two thousand percent increase? Well Adele’s Freedom of Information figures show in 2013 officers recorded 19 calls compared to at least 461 in 2015 and in the last year the number rose by over 160%. Just half of police forces in England that Sky News contacted responded to the request. Considering the number of drones in use and the hours flown and number of complaints in the low thousands suggests this remains a generally small problem but one that should be monitored and brought back before the courts as drone use evolves.

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 is always available but I do not think it will feature often in cases of complaints about drone use.