Opinion

Maxwell: Balancing citizen rights with advancing law enforcement technology

Posted 2/2/21

This past week I was reading a new book by Jon Fasman, the digital editor of the Economist. His book, We See It All, is a review of surveillance and local police departments.

While reading I …

To Our Valued Readers –

Visitors to our website will be limited to five stories per month unless they opt to subscribe.

For $5.99, less than 20 cents a day, subscribers will receive unlimited access to the website, including access to our Daily Independent e-edition, which features Arizona-specific journalism and items you can’t find in our community print products, such as weather reports, comics, crossword puzzles, advice columns and so much more six days a week.

Our commitment to balanced, fair reporting and local coverage provides insight and perspective not found anywhere else.

Your financial commitment will help to preserve the kind of honest journalism produced by our reporters and editors. We trust you agree that independent journalism is an essential component of our democracy. Please click here to subscribe.

Sincerely,
Charlene Bisson, Publisher, Independent Newsmedia

Please log in to continue

Log in
I am anchor
Opinion

Maxwell: Balancing citizen rights with advancing law enforcement technology

Posted

This past week I was reading a new book by Jon Fasman, the digital editor of the Economist. His book, We See It All, is a review of surveillance and local police departments.

While reading I reminded myself that the issues discussed in the book about citizen privacy and new technology being leveraged by law enforcement are not something that we have had to grapple with in Scottsdale. I have always found our police department to be transparent and open to citizen inquiry.

That being said, technological advances are providing law enforcement with new tools to aid in preventing, solving, and prosecuting crime. These new tools are effective aids in policing, but what costs to privacy comes along with new technology? Since we have new leadership at the police department and a slate of newly elected city leaders perhaps it is time to review what we want as a community?

Citizen Virtual Patrols are camera networks that are capable of viewing large swaths of the city in real-time.

While most people would be comforted knowing if something happened there is a strong likelihood it would be captured and be useful in solving a crime. But what happens to that data once it is collected? Is video footage being archived of someone’s whereabouts?

Is facial recognition being used and if so how is that data being used?

Shot Spotters are used to detect acoustic intrusive sounds, such as gunfire.

Statistics say that less than 9% of gunshots result in calls to police. A tool that can alert police to gunshots being fired can be a tremendous advantage to police who need to respond quickly.

The question for those concerned with privacy is how sensitive are these Shot Spotters? Can they detect individual conversations? Companies that provide Shot Spotter tools say no they are unable to detect personal conversations. But the question remains that we have to rely on transparency from law enforcement and the equipment manufacturers to answer this question.

I reviewed the Scottsdale police website to see if any of these tools are being used in Scottsdale. I was unable to determine if any surveillance type of equipment is being deployed at this time.

I have a tremendous amount of confidence that Scottsdale police operate with citizen privacy in mind. I fully support new technology and new tools to make the difficult job of law enforcement more effective and safer. However, as new technology is introduced, we must continue to evaluate as a community where that line between citizen rights and police capabilities intersect.

Editor’s Note: Kevin Maxwell is a resident of Scottsdale.

Comments