Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Z_CNHI News Service

November 22, 2013

Police should get used to being under GPS microscope

Somebody needs to tell certain police unions that the “privacy-is-dead” reality applies to them as well as the rest of us.

Police departments, with the full support of their unionized workforces, have enthusiastically embraced technology that increases their surveillance powers by orders of magnitude – in many cases for good reason.

Most in the general public support it,  as well. We want them to have all reasonable tools to prevent criminals, many of whom are also tech-savvy, from preying on the rest of us.

But now that surveillance technology is focusing on police – in part to make a department’s operations more efficient, effective and safer, but also to monitor the performance and whereabouts of officers on the job – ironically enough, you start hearing words like “invasive” and “intrusive.”

Most recently, that is the case in Boston. The department, as part of a new contract, is planning to have GPS tracking installed in cruisers, and also to install better video monitoring in stations to record how suspects are treated while in custody.

As one anonymous officer put it, while asserting that none of his colleagues supported it, “Who wants to be followed all over the place?”

Well, yeah. Do they think the rest of us enjoy it?

It is unnerving for office workers to know that their every move online can be tracked by their employers, or that video cameras may monitor the length of their bathroom breaks or how long they spend in the cafeteria. The same is true for many snowplow drivers, who know that management is tracking their vehicles to make sure they are doing their routes instead of sitting at the coffee shop.

Boston’s school bus drivers walked off the job in a wildcat strike recently, in protest of GPS tracking in their vehicles.

But as management and even a few editorial pages have pointed out, Boston's police are just getting in step with a majority of departments around the country – nearly 70 percent, according to the Police Executive Research Forum. It is an irreversible tide because its advantages (that have nothing to do with invading cops’ privacy) are too obvious and substantial to ignore.

It can make crime fighting more effective, by synching statistics on high-crime areas with the GPS devices. It can improve response times to incidents, since commanders will more easily be able to deploy the closest vehicle.

It can improve officer safety - an advantage that some officers acknowledge. One comment in an online police officer forum noted that, “It can mark your last known vehicle location or even tell dispatch where you are if 'it' hits the fan in the general vicinity of your unit and you can't get to your handheld.”

As another put it, “You call for help, everyone can see where you are.”

But, yes, there are clearly disciplinary components to it, as well.

GPS is used to make sure officers are patrolling in their assigned sectors. It tracks their speed: In Louisiana, an officer is in trouble following a recent high-speed crash in which a woman was injured. According to state police, the GPS in his cruiser had logged him speeding more than 700 times during the previous 10 months, sometimes out of his jurisdiction. Just before the crash, the GPS showed he had been doing 100 mph.

According to civil rights organizations like the ACLU of Massachusetts, this kind of monitoring goes too far. “Tracking someone’s location as they go about their day-to-day life is incredibly invasive,” the group said in a statement.

That is a (likely deliberate) distortion of what is going on. The surveillance occurs only during a crucial portion of their “day-to-day life” – their work shift. Once they are off duty, there is no GPS monitoring of their activities.

It may be invasive and it certainly is uncomfortable, but the reality is that employees don’t have a claim to much privacy when they are being paid to work for someone else. Of course, people should not be visually monitored on a bathroom break, or have Human Resources listening in on every casual conversation with a coworker. But management has a right to expect that when you are working when you are paid to be working, not sending personal emails, spending time on social media sites, or taking a nap.

This is especially true of those on the public payroll, who are paid by taxpayers. Police work fewer days, get better pay and vastly better benefits than the average taxpayer who pays for their services. It is more than reasonable to expect that when they are on the clock, they are performing their duties as directed.

Most of the complaints are little more than juvenile whining. One officer claimed that he might get in trouble if he spent 45 minutes talking to a confidential informant in a dark alley. Is he suggesting than management won’t approve of good police work? Or that he can’t trust management not to leak the name of his source?

Conscientious officers should welcome the scrutiny. Among other things, it can protect them from false accusations.

Besides, as law enforcement people are so fond of saying to the rest of us: “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.”

Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at t.armerding@verizon.net

1
Text Only
Z_CNHI News Service
  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Another stumble begs questions about Notre Dame

    Notre Dame's vaunted reputation for formidable athletics and serious academics is again sullied by a cheating scandal. Maybe the high standards of the Fighting Irish are just too good to be true.

    August 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Debate filled with 'hate' gives Hamas a pass

    Political invective is dialed to the max, and everyone who disagrees is a "hater." But the hate police, who are so eager to cast labels, are ignoring the real wells of contempt in the Middle East.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg OU player's suspension shows pitfalls of addressing sexual assault on campus

    The University of Oklahoma's leading tackler is suspended for the season - or maybe not. Frank Shannon is still practicing with the Sooners amid a court battle over whether OU can discipline him after a sexual assault investigation. The tough issue of addressing assault on campus isn't just OU's problem.

    August 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.

    A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."

    August 14, 2014

  • Freshman.jpg 8 crucial tips for college freshmen

    With school starting back up around the country, no one has a bigger deer-in-the-headlights look than college freshmen.

    August 14, 2014 1 Photo

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video
Obama: World Is Appalled by Murder of Journalist Israel, Militants Trade Fire After Talks Fail Pres. George W. Bush Takes Ice Bucket Challenge Pierce Brosnan's Call to Join the Expendables Changes Coming to No-Fly List Raw: IDF Footage Said to Show Airstrikes Police: Ferguson More Peaceful Raw: Aftermath of Airstrike in Gaza Raw: Thousands March on Pakistani Parliament Raw: World's Oldest Man Lives in Japan Fire Crews Tame Yosemite Fire Raw: Police Weapon Drawn Near Protesters, Media Raw: Explosions in Gaza As Airstrikes Resume Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape Texas Gov. Perry: Indictment 'a Political Act' US Officials: Video Shows American's Beheading Video Shows Ferguson Cop Months Before Shooting Water Bottles Recalled for Safety Researcher Testing On-Field Concussion Scanners
Poll

Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

I think it’s a good idea to feed all the students free of charge
I think those who can afford it should pay for their school meals
I think all students should be required to pay for their school meals
     View Results