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Law Enforcement, Surveillance and Communities: How Far is Too Far?

Technology is not just changing the way the world works. It’s also providing new ways for law enforcement to approach surveillance. Gone are the days when police may record a situation just by chance; today, cameras are everywhere. The same technology that has changed how we live now provides detailed records of our daily lives. But how far is too far?


“You adapt and change, which is all law enforcement has done. And it all takes a moment to accept from both sides. When my department initially started wearing body worn cameras, there was a shooting that didn’t take place in front of my patrol car (which previously was the only place recording an incident). Seeing what the body camera brought to the table made a big change in my opinion of them. Nevada mandated them. It was a cost and something new to adapt to. But being able to see what it provided from an administrative point of view and knowing what was available is incredibly beneficial,” says David Burns, Deputy Chief (Retired), FBI National Academy, Session 270, Business Manager, Utility, Inc.

Artificial intelligence and Facial Recognition

Both artificial intelligence and facial recognition continue to gain popularity. But just like all technology, both can be misused and need human verification. The reason being that it’s a computer, it’s learning, it’s not all-being. It doesn’t know 100%. In fact, every law enforcement agency is still required to have a person validate accurate fingerprint verifications. At the end of the day, Law Enforcement never wants to arrest an innocent person for a crime committed. Punishing the correct person is the goal

Facial Recognition. Image by izusek via Getty Images Signature.

Technology Records the Good, the Bad, and Everything In Between

Surveillance cameras in public places help identify the perpetrator of a crime. And while there are many places you expect to be recorded (inside a store or walking down the streets of New York City), you can now find them in unexpected locations like local parks.

When heading to your local park for a picnic, the thought of being recorded may sound unnecessary and even shocking to some. But people do go into parks to damage public property and commit crimes. When the parks in Henderson, Nevada, were being destroyed by off-road recreational vehicles the city placed cameras in the parks to monitor them 24/7 to prevent further damage.

Public Surveillance Cameras. Image by Darwin Brandis via Getty Images

When agencies use technology and are upfront and transparent about what they’re collecting and using, communities can easily see the positives of having it, from catching criminals to doing welfare checks. It’s the everyday interaction.

Do People Pose for Cameras?

When law enforcement body cameras are on, law enforcement and the people in their communities should not need to change their behaviors or how they interact. With that being said, we are all human. People have bad days across the board, regardless of their job, duties, or expectations. And having cameras recording incidents is sometimes the only way of navigating a situation.

When officers are out in uniform, they are representing their communities. All behavior should be appropriate. Likewise, citizens should note the prevalence of body worn cameras and act accordingly.

Officer from Louisville PD. Image by Utility Inc.

David Burns states, “If you’re not committing a crime, there is no reason to worry about cameras. Ten years ago, you would walk into Walmart, and you would be on camera the moment you walked in the door. You didn’t care because you weren’t doing anything. Now there are cameras outside the building. The only place you should be worried about being recorded is in your own home. And that’s the right you have. Other than that, it’s the open public. It should make everyone feel safer.”

As Technology Evolves, so do Criminals

There will always be people who find a way to make a buck without working for it. And no matter how rapidly technology changes, there will always be somebody out there that finds a way to abuse the solution. Body cameras, artificial intelligence, and surveillance cameras provide the real-time information law enforcement needs to help keep their communities safe.

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