Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson wants to hear from GUARDIAN readers regarding their thoughts about various technologies used in law enforcement today.
By MIKE MASTERSON
Boise Police Chief
Technological gains over the last decade have allowed society and businesses to do their jobs more efficiently. Policing is no different where it often seems every new piece of technology on the market is immediately looked at by law enforcement as a solution to make our jobs easier.
Radar devices are a great example. We could have continued to expect officers to manually compute time over distance to calculate speed by picking out two fixed objects and using a stop watch to measure speed but instead we invest in technology that can perform those calculations instantly.
Policing is much different than any other business however. Looking ahead, I think we must exercise caution in what we bring to policing and more importantly the polices we create on their use. With more technology will come challenges of balancing and protecting individual privacy vs. promoting public safety. Let me preface the discussion by admitting there are no easy answers and by also acknowledging that our first priority is protecting constitutional rights.
–For example, license plate readers are in use elsewhere and I don’t think they are necessarily a bad thing. We had a reader in Boise about seven years ago and don’t have immediate plans to bring it here again. ( we leased a vehicle for $1 a year equipped with six multi directional cameras to help in recovering stolen cars but we didn’t have enough stolen cars to justify it .) Are there appropriate uses for a license plate reader vehicle , say positioned at elementary schools to monitor for sex offenders prohibited from driving in the area? How about a LPR vehicle positioned on different streets preloaded with the license plates of individuals wanted on warrant? Just serious warrants or perhaps the thousands of persons wanted here locally? Would LPR be acceptable for these uses if there was a policy on data storage, retention and use?
–While I’m not a fan of cameras for speed enforcement what about camera’s placed at controlled intersections to identify those motorists and vehicles for red signal violations? Don’t we have a legitimate interest in preventing serious injury accidents or deaths because of the careless behaviors of those who choose to ignore or “beat” the light?
–BPD doesn’t have aerial devices (drones) nor plans to acquire one. But, recent events of lost hikers in a national park have once again brought the discussion of their uses to law enforcement. Is there a difference between an ultra-light flown by a police officer vs. a remote controlled model airplane operated by a police officer ? ( yes that’s what I grew up calling them). Would we consider them for trying to locate a missing endangered child who may be in a ten block area or his house? How about an elderly person with dementia who has wandered away from their living facility?
These discussions are vitally important to have between police leaders and the community. Many of my colleagues have acquired new technology without much thought on how it impacts law abiding citizens. Thoughtful replies are welcomed and appreciated. I may not always get the opportunity to respond but appreciate people taking time to share their thoughts with me. As always, my commitment is to listen.
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