An alternative to eye in the sky- eyes on cops?

This Tuesday, April 9, 2013, at 6 p.m. there is an community meeting in the city commission chambers (if from what I’m seeing on Facebook is an indication of attendance, they should consider moving it to the Convention center theater) about the proposed aerial surveillance program.

I’ve written about this before: What is needed more? An eye in the sky- or an eye on our commission? And it came up in our Independent candidates’ video two weeks ago: Dayton Independent Candidates on Aerial Surveillance.

I don’t believe it’s the city’s job to fund a local company’s R&D program with tax dollars, or money seized as RICO funds. Especially if the contract hasn’t been put out for open bid. Besides the fact that this is $1,000 per hour and only during daytime, I’d rather see the money invested in other security equipment (since the argument is RICO funds can’t be used for man-hours, only equipment). I posted long ago about the “Armadillo” and brought up alternatives to aerial surveillance of all, like stop and frisk- which can have a major impact in taking guns out of the hands of known felons. (Note, I suggested discussing it as an alternative- not suggested it was a solution).

I’ve been to London, England, the most heavily camera laden city on the planet. The cameras didn’t make me feel safer, nor have they proven to reduce crime. However, in the South Park Neighborhood, we’ve definitely felt better informed about what’s going on in our neighborhood thanks to some neighbors’ video surveillance systems. One of the most outspoken residents against the cameras- ended up benefiting from them when her boyfriend’s car got totaled in the middle of the night and the evidence was on her neighbor’s cameras. (I think I posted about it- but can’t find the link right now).

I feel that security comes from being around large groups of other people who believe in social standards that work and are enforced uniformly. I believe that security is a real job, with real wages, within a safe and civil society that respects its citizens equally. I’ve been a champion of the first amendment, even being arrested in defense of public speech at public meetings. I don’t take civil rights lightly.

But. I do know we have a confidence problem in our community with out police force. The Kylan English death was an example where the “he said, she said” game got raised to cold war levels. There are parts of Dayton where our police department isn’t respected, or trusted.

Instead of spending $120K on eye in the sky- this article in the New York Times of running personal video on every police encounter could prove more useful than the eye in the sky:

police departments are using miniaturized video cameras and their microphones to capture, in full detail, officers’ interactions with civilians. The cameras are so small that they can be attached to a collar, a cap or even to the side of an officer’s sunglasses. High-capacity battery packs can last for an extended shift. And all of the videos are uploaded automatically to a central server that serves as a kind of digital evidence locker.

William A. Farrar, the police chief in Rialto, Calif., has been investigating whether officers’ use of video cameras can bring measurable benefits to relations between the police and civilians. Officers in Rialto, which has a population of about 100,000, already carry Taser weapons equipped with small video cameras that activate when the weapon is armed, and the officers have long worn digital audio recorders.

But when Mr. Farrar told his uniformed patrol officers of his plans to introduce the new, wearable video cameras, “it wasn’t the easiest sell,” he said, especially to some older officers who initially were “questioning why ‘big brother’ should see everything they do.”

He said he reminded them that civilians could use their cellphones to record interactions, “so instead of relying on somebody else’s partial picture of what occurred, why not have your own?” he asked. “In this way, you have the real one.”…

Half of Rialto’s uniformed patrol officers on each week’s schedule have been randomly assigned the cameras, also made by Taser International. Whenever officers wear the cameras, they are expected to activate them when they leave the patrol car to speak with a civilian.

A convenient feature of the camera is its “pre-event video buffer,” which continuously records and holds the most recent 30 seconds of video when the camera is off. In this way, the initial activity that prompts the officer to turn on the camera is more likely to be captured automatically, too.

THE Rialto study began in February 2012 and will run until this July. The results from the first 12 months are striking. Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers, compared with the 12 months before the study, to 3 from 24. (emphasis added)

Rialto’s police officers also used force nearly 60 percent less often — in 25 instances, compared with 61. When force was used, it was twice as likely to have been applied by the officers who weren’t wearing cameras during that shift, the study found. And, lest skeptics think that the officers with cameras are selective about which encounters they record, Mr. Farrar noted that those officers who apply force while wearing a camera have always captured the incident on video.

As small as the cameras are, they seem to be noticeable to civilians, he said. “When you look at an officer,” he said, “it kind of sticks out.” Citizens have sometimes asked officers, “Hey, are you wearing a camera?” and the officers say they are, he reported.

But what about the privacy implications? Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, says: “We don’t like the networks of police-run video cameras that are being set up in an increasing number of cities. We don’t think the government should be watching over the population en masse.” But requiring police officers to wear video cameras is different, he says: “When it comes to the citizenry watching the government, we like that.”

Mr. Stanley says that all parties stand to benefit — the public is protected from police misconduct, and officers are protected from bogus complaints. “There are many police officers who’ve had a cloud fall over them because of an unfounded accusation of abuse,” he said. “Now police officers won’t have to worry so much about that kind of thing.”

Mr. Farrar says officers have told him of cases when citizens arrived at a Rialto police station to file a complaint and the supervisor was able to retrieve and play on the spot the video of what had transpired. “The individuals left the station with basically no other things to say and have never come back,” he said.

via Wearable Video Cameras, for Police Officers – NYTimes.com.

As an option to compare with the aerial surveillance, I believe that cop cams would do more to protect Dayton’s citizens and our police department in public interactions. I also believe that when citizens treat our officers with disrespect, they should be arrested and charged. I’ve seen our cops put up with being called things that shouldn’t be said in public.

I also believe that people who end up on these cameras too often should start having their lives made more difficult, for abusing the system and costing us all money. No one should require 22 police calls on average a year to their residence. I believe focusing on targeted problems makes much more sense than flying overhead hoping to catch a criminal after the act.

However, I do recognize that cop cams and armadillos wouldn’t solve the crime that still haunts me- the murder of Sgt. Maj North Woodall. Had the eye in the sky been flying on that fateful day, the police may have had some leads on when and where his killers escaped. It’s something to think about. I look at the photo of the SGT. Maj. everyday at work. RIP.

Your thoughts?

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