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.

POLICE LEADERSHIP

Reblogged from Mental Health Cop’s great series of articles thank you Insp Mike Brown!

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I heard the Health Secretary Jeremy HUNT deliver a speech at today’s Crisis Care Concordat Summit in London, the first major speech he’s delivered on mental health, we were told. Almost the first thing he did was praise the police service for the leadership shown on the subject of mental health crisis care, driving much of the debate that led to the creation of the Crisis Care Concordat itself. I might be wrong, but my sense was the comment did not land well with everyone! One service user tweeted about this, wondering whether it should be the police driving certain aspects of healthcare provision – and of course, I don’t think there was a police officer in that room who wouldn’t happily see the issues we face being confronted head-on by senior health leaders and commissioners.

History shows another approach became necessary, for a range of reasons perhaps uniquely understood by the police.

BACK SEAT DRIVERS

Following his speech, the Q&A session saw Commander Christine JONES from the Metropolitan Police, the lead for the National Police Chiefs Council asking, “Mental health services are underfunded: at what point will parity of esteem be matched by parity of funding?” Almost immediately, we saw reaction about how senior health leaders were unlikely to challenge as directly as this. Again: the police driving the debate, literally, with the Secretary of State for Health on the general topic of mental health, not a question specifically about policing! Would Commander JONES be asking that question if a senior health leader were doing it or likely to do it? … I doubt it.

After I woke this morning, my attention was drawn on Twitter to an article by Lord BLAIR in today’s Guardian, a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. This article was bouncing around the conference room at the Oval, in hardcopy … “have you seen this?!” and so it was handed from person to person. It quite obviously divided opinion amongst the non-police professionals present (and on Twitter). It ranged from ‘flabby opinion’ that was ‘not offering any solutions’ to some who thought it was imprecisely making perfectly valid points about the outcomes we see from our current arrangements. It’s obviously not for the police, serving or retired, to tell the health system how or when to ensure upstream intervention in mental health care any more than it is for health professionals to get specific about how the police should discharge their responsibilities under criminal law. However, it is perfectly fair comment for NHS staff at all levels to flag up problems in policing and say, “What are you going to do about it, Copper?!” Or similar.

The main agenda at the CCC today was all about health – a couple of the workshops focussed on policing and legal issues but the main room was all about health. Quite right, too! – the police should be much less of a voice in this, ideally. That they aren’t does lead to certain observations which I make very reluctantly after today’s events. We need to see achievement and progress in this area: not just activity – and this means we also need to describe what we’re actually trying to achieve. The Concordat obliged local areas to produce an action plan, uploaded to the Mind website in 2015 – I’m told this plan should be refreshed and updated by all areas in early 2017. In addition, we heard today about the Five Year Forward View plans that are required, in order to deliver on the NHS England strategy for mental health during the remainder of this Parliament. Of course, those following developments in health will know that various areas have grouped together to produce Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), in order to make the NHS as a whole sustainable in coming years.

PLANS ABOUT PLANS

So what about those 2015 Action Plans – how many areas have ensured delivery of the majority of their contents? If you remember the mapping process set down by Mind: areas were to go from Red to Amber when they’d agreed to some principles to work in partnership; and then Green once uploaded to the Mind website. I remember commenting at the time there should be another colour for completion of the plan, even if just 80% complete. However, one police officer today described his local CCC leadership group as a talking shop where “nothing gets done”. It’s not the first time this month I’ve heard that said, quite honestly. So in addition to those plans, which now need revising, we see then need for more plans after the Five Year report and all of that has to fit in to STPs concerning overall NHS efficiency – the plan of plans!

We know from recent media coverage, that more than half of CCGs are cutting the funding they give to mental health as a proportion of their overall budget, despite suggestions from Government that the proportion should increase. That is the context within which any plan needs to be seen and we know that the trend in terms of crisis care is an upward one – barely a week goes by without coverage on increases in crisis related issues: whether systemtic or individual. No-one who follows current affairs in any detail could fail to understand that there are dynamics at play in society that effect mental health which do go beyond the health service but none of that explains decisions we see to situations ever more towards the social justice safety net that is policing and criminal justice.

I also prepared a question for Jeremy HUNT, in case no other police officer put their hand up. I was going to ask, “What should we conclude about mental health and crisis care if more people than ever before are being detained under s136 MHA, more people are going missing whilst mentally ill, more people are being arrested for offences and then being assessed under the MHA in custody?” There was a sense today amongst (at least some of) the police officers that whatever progress is being made on CrisisCare – and there is lots of it! – it seems to be at the expense of upstream interventions. Those of you who follow along on social media know I’m all too fond of quoting Archbishop Desmond TUTU: “There comes a point you have to stop pulling people out of the river, get upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

POLICING IN MENTAL HEALTH

When I first got involved in working on the policing interface with our mental health and wider health system, I remember specifically saying to myself that I wasn’t ever going to get myself in to the position of being caught telling healthcare professionals how to run their health service or how to deliver on their professional obligations. This was partly a question of manners: I’d be prepared to listen to anyone about the impact of the way we police on them, but it is ultimately for the police to square away competing demands and priorities in how police services are run, held accountable as they are through various processes. I took the view that that the reverse courtesy should be applied in how I worked on mental health.

But if I’ve learned anything in the last twelve years on this topic, it is a conclusion very reluctantly reached and best summed up in a matephor from my other area of professional interest: public order policing. Progress on mental health has come when police officers or police services form a cordon, take ground and hold the line. History shows that problems in health-based Place of Safety provision actually came not from the Concordat – no doubt it helped – but from some forces saying, “Enough is enough: this will have to change and it will change with or without the consent of the health system”. We’ve heard recently about problems in partnerships where the police are being routinely expected to handle the fallout, often unlawfully, of a health system that has decommissioned too many inpatient and specialist beds whilst apparently disregarding s140 MHA and other obligations. History shows that resolution of those operational problems has come from senior officers tweeting to publicly shame the system in to gear and from actual or threatened legal action.

So the lesson appears to be this: the police are bungling around in this arena, still – not always getting it right and we sometimes miss the subtleties or complexities. We are not experts, we are not clinicians and we’re not trying to be. We just have a unique perspective on some of these important issues and one that is all too misunderstood and disregarded. History shows that unless we shout loud and / or agitate on behalf of vulnerable people, we don’t make progress. I’m far from alone in wishing this were not so. As a natural introvert and an experienced public order commander I can tell you that shouting and agitation is occasionally a tactic in taking ground and making progress: it is to be used sparingly, recognised as a restrictive or coercive practice and it is not without collateral intrusion. However, it does remain a legitimate tactic and leadership is recognising when it is required, when the collateral intrusion may be worth the risk and involves not over-playing it. If we want that voice to quieten down, I suspect we need to see fewer, clearer plans about what the destination is and how we get from here to there without violating the rights and expectations of vulnerable people who are all too often caught up in it.

Notice the above didn’t really focus on the public we serve? – neither did today.


IMG_0053IMG_0052Winner of the President’s Medal from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award.


A Uni”Form” Of Honour

I have to admit my sense of humour can be a little difficult to understand at times.  Put it this way – it took someone a few minutes to work out what I meant when I informed them that something ‘served a “Ronseal” function’ (in this case I meant that it did “exactly what it said on the tin”).

However, there are times when even I find things too twisted for words.

For example – take the baseball caps the Police are now being issued with in place of their helmets or flat hats.

If you would like to read my full thoughts on this crime against a Police Uniform please click here – The Meaning Of A Uniform

I know that uniforms are supposed to include some aspect to make them comfortable to be worn for long periods of time.  However, is it really necessary to sacrifice Smartness for comfort???  I can only think of one uniform which has been changed for the better by people who do not wear it – and that is the one worn by the Brownies (I can still remember the horrible brown dress I used to have to wear as a Brownie).

If people are no longer allowed to take pride in their uniform – how can we expect them to take pride in their work for no other reason that they are doing a good job in difficult circumstances???

Bring back the smart hats.

 

It Is Not Only The Road Conditions Or The Weather Conditions You Should Worry About…

The condition of your passengers should also be taken into consideration.

Allow me to explain.

I admit this concept is more aimed at Bus Drivers (please see Please Drive For The Condition of Your Passengers for further explanation) but I think it is something that all drivers could do with considering.

This is not a way of treating all car drivers as idiots (although – sometimes I do wonder if I would actually make a better driver than some of the apparently blind and/or deaf drivers on our roads).  I intend this to be more of a “brush up”.

We have all seen the advertisements and other information advising drivers to consider the condition of the weather as well as the roads – as well as the “Think Bike” campaign and the “Fatal 4 (or 5)” campaign run by various Police Forces.

The strange thing is that the condition of your passenger(s) is never mentioned.  Are they secured into their seats properly? Are they comfortable with your style of driving? Would they feel comfortable in warning you if they weren’t?  (Maybe that last question is more important than the other two.)

We have all been around idiots who failed to pay close enough attention to the road conditions, the applicable speed limit, and the car’s speedometer.

As summer fast approaches – please take extra care when you are driving around – both with and without passengers.  Remember – the aim of your journery should always be to “Arrive Alive”.

Social Media Can Be The Biggest Hostage-Taker In Your Company

With tanks to our guest blogger Ineke Poutney

UnknownIf you think I am going to applaud you for banning your staff from using Social Media for personal reasons during working hours you would be missing the point entirely.

I have been reading an interesting Report about the Police and their use of Social Media which made very interesting points about the use of Social Media as a tool to connect with the public.

However, I couldn’t help thinking there was a gaping hole in the Report.  What happens when the public cannot use Social Media to contact the Police (for instance, because “this account is not monitored 24/7”)?

There is a major problem with “Corporate” Social Media accounts.  They never inspire me with confidence as to the service I am likely to receive from the company behind them.

On the one hand they are never as “human” as people’s personal accounts, on the other hand they always go “off air” when the member of staff in charge of them leaves the office.

And this is where my comment about Social Media being “the biggest Hostage-Taker in your company” stems from.

If your company only operates whilst the person in charge of your Social Media accounts is glued to their desk – and you don’t provide anything which is likely to break down, blow up, or malfunction in any other way, outside your hours of business – you must be one of the lucky ones.

» Read more

Parents urged to be vigilant after boys falls victim to online crime

This was discovered but the Surrey Res Net team – and shared here! Thank you too Surrey police

Surrey Police is urging parents to be vigilant and protect their children from falling victim to online crime, as officers investigate a report that a teenage boy was blackmailed by someone he was befriended by on the Internet.

The 15-year-old victim has alleged that he was befriended by a woman he met through an online game. She is alleged to have recorded him performing a sexual act and then threatened to pass the video to his family and friends if he did not pay her 500 euros.

PC Carina Jewell, who is investigating the allegation, said: “We have carried out extensive enquiries since this was reported to us at the end of December 2015 but unfortunately the woman has changed her name and photo so we have no way of tracing her. However, we do have concerns that she may have befriended other young people and threatened them in the same way and we would like to hear from anyone who believes they may have been a victim of a similar offence.

“We would also like to remind young people in particular to be careful online and never add people they don’t know. Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have obviously become incredibly popular in recent years and most users are genuine, but because it is so easy to hide your real identity, it is possible to come into contact with people you would normally avoid.

“If you believe you have been a victim of any type of crime, please ensure you report it to us by calling 101 or use our online reporting form.”

Anyone using the Internet is urged to follow the advice below to ensure their online safety:

» Read more

Can I report driving offences by video?

Posted  by Roger Nield

A question by @dombat via Twittter and the ‘Police App’ ever more appropriate with the growing numbers of GoPro’s and other devices in cars and on bikes these days.

Can I report driving offences by video?

Yes you can. In Runnymede neighbourhood police have had an agreement for years with the Safer Runnymede CCTV control centre

Unknownthat where their staff see anti-social driving the local neighbourhood team will contact the owner of the vehicles and give them a warning. For example ‘boy-racers’ up on the Runnymede Pleasure Grounds. You will also see in other blogs, reports from the public of dangerous parking along the A30 that officers have deployed to in order to protect people lawfully using the highway.

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The nub of the issue is this: If you report a problem at a location police can deploy staff to check it out and tackle any offences they observe there. If however you see an offence you must make a choice; are you prepared to report it to the police and support them in the investigation all the way to a conviction in court – or not?

If you are prepared to support a prosecution then your video of the offences now forms part of the evidence police need to prosecute the driver. Next police need to identify the offender and interview them. If the driver admits the offence then they can decide how to deal with the suspect from giving simply advice all the way through to issuing a summons.

As a key witness you would be asked to provide a witness statement on top of your video and you would need to be prepared to go to court. Note that police have to be able to show that the images were original and that all the evidence could be tested at the trial. (That’s why police officers have such a comUnknown-2prehensive evidence/property collecting/recording/storage system).

If you are not prepared to go to court you should still tell the police as they can then monitor the location and the vehicle you saw.

However there is a third way you can contribute to local road safety by joining or starting a Community Speed Watch [CSW]. This is where the public band together to capture evidence following training on equipment supplied by police. So what is the difference between CSW and your suggestion? Simply the training provided and a prior agreement so that CSW members know that folk they report will initially relieve a warning letter and the offenders will be flagged to local police for their attention.

The best way forward if you are concerned is to speak with your local policing team and work with them to address the problem. But never stop advising the police of dangerous or anti-social driving. It’s the public’s number one priority in Surrey and police officers work alongside partners under Drive SMART are working to tackle it.

 

To Dye or Not to Dye? A question of suspect identification

The question has been posed “Could security staff spray a dye onto people committing offences to enable them and by extension the police, to identify them later?”

identification?

identification?

To answer this one needs to define a number of aspects of the question.

To begin with I will assume that the incident will happen in England and Wales. I define police as someone who holds a warrant as a police constable and security staff as anyone who is employed  and is working on private property, for example as door staff.

So in answer to the question,  anyone could spray a dye onto anyone else if they had the product to hand and yes this would potentially assist in the later identification of offenders or witnesses to the incident where the dye had been deployed.

But would this be lawful? Neither the police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 nor common law have anything to say on the matter.

However for police officers there is a requirement to act proportionately, lawfully, appropriately and their action(s) must be necessary [PLAN]. There is no current legislation that covers spraying dye on offenders nor is it a tactic available to public order commanders.

For security staff again there is no legislation covering the use of dye. I argue though that they should follow the police legal requirement to ‘PLAN’. Under this and considering that the suspect(s) are on private property the following protections may apply.

If the organisers or operators specifically warn attendees that it is part of the terms and conditions of their attendance that a dye could be deployed to identify persons involved in disorder or a criminal offence.

It could be argued that this could tend to mitigate the chance of people offending or observing an offence for fear of being ‘dyed’.

However the actions of the security personnel would need to be recorded by CCTV, body cam or another official to support the PLAN decision making and the dyes use.

This would not however prevent the user of the dye from being considered for causing criminal damage or being sued under civil law for damages.

Furthermore under current Health and Safety legislation an employee and their employer have a safety responsibility towards anyone on their property which is subject to the lesser Civil Law burden of proof. How this sits with a complaint about being dyed would need to be determined.

The point is that there is no legal precedent for the use of dye to help identify suspects in a crowd whereas there is in the protection of cash in transit. The use of dye in the proposed way would have to be tested in the courts. I am certain this would lead to years of litigation and challenge all the way to the supreme court so anyone wishing to try dyeing suspects should expect to be challenged. Moreover they should check with their insurers that they will be supported. Finally they must ensure that the colorant is not deployed in a public place as this may place the user in conflict with the police. I would also be concerned for their SIA license as the authority are quick to suspend members pending the resolution of legal action.