Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

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A prosecutor with the state Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals said former Anchorage Police Department officer Mark Moeller had a lot going for him before “he acted incredibly stupid.”

During his year and half as an APD officer Moeller used the Alaska Public Safety Information Network, or APSIN, to access information about an arrest warrant for his sister-in-law, and search her former boyfriend. Moeller also looked up DUI charges against a woman he had entered a relationship with after arresting her; his actions came to light when Moeller called a prosecutor to ask that the DUI be dropped, prompting a call from the prosecutor to APD.

Moeller initially faced eight felony charges and five misdemeanors for his actions, before making his plea agreement. He has been given a suspension in sentence for the felony criminal computer-use charge, meaning if he doesn’t violate terms of probation for two years the charge will be expunged from his record.

It sure must be nice to be charged with felonies and misdemeanors and have them whittled down to two years probation.

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Whether Berning had a right to record O’Brien is not clear under state law, said Barry Butin, co-legal panel chairman of the Broward American Civil Liberties Union. But because it is clear that third parties can record video of police performing their duties, Berning “has a good chance of the law being on her side,” Butin said.

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Bloomfield, New Jersey’s Councilman Carlos Bernard asked acting police chief James Behre “to fix a parking ticket” and to favor Hispanic officers for promotions in two separate instances — all to “solidify” Behre’s position to become the permanent chief of the 124-member department, Behre said during the public comments section at the meeting.

Behre demanded that the mayor and township administrator call for an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office.

“No one owns the chief’s position. It’s not for sale,” Behre said.

In one instance, Behre recounted, the councilman asked for a Hispanic officer to be made detective “and follows up with this: this will solidify your position as chief and your problems will go away.”

“He’s come into my office and used the word ‘we’ to imply that he’s there on behalf of the whole council,” Behre said.

In the video below, acting Police Chief Behre stands up to the town council and Mayor regarding political interference. This video is an excerpt from the Town Council meeting on February 10, 2014. After the meeting, Behre was placed on is placed on leave pending fitness of duty evaluation.

Behre, 50, said that he received a letter today from Township Administrator Ted Ehrenburg relieving Behre of his duties, effective immediately. Behre said he’s been scheduled for a “fitness of duty evaluation” with a doctor on March 3.

Mayor Michael Venezia confirmed that Behre was placed on paid leave today but said it was due to concerns over Behre’s health and not due to his comments regarding Councilman Carlos Bernard.

“He’s still being paid. We felt that we needed to take precautions,” Venezia said. During Behre’s comments on Monday, the acting chief claimed he had lost 10 pounds due to stress caused by the turmoil within the police department and that his children ask “why daddy is angry every night,” the mayor noted.

Behre, a 27-year veteran of the Bloomfield Police Department, said he’s convinced he was placed on leave as a direct result of speaking out against Bernard’s meddling in police affairs.

“That’s exactly it,” Behre said when reached by phone. “They can do what they want but I find it interesting that when a chief of police tries to protect his department, instead of taking my concerns seriously and forward them up to the Attorney General’s Office, they relieve me of my duties.”

Video.

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Portland police cars are collecting information on up to 128,000 vehicle license plates per day.

Four cameras mounted on the roof take pictures of all the cars he passes – whether parked or driving. They then feed license plate numbers into a computer.

A dash-mounted screen pings each time the computer logs another plate’s number.

the pictures taken by the license plate system aren’t usually good enough to show who’s driving; and the system is only about 80 percent accurate. That’s because sometimes there’s  mud on a number plate or a trailer hitch in the way.

But some are concerned that the police could use this powerful system to find out — for example — whether a local politician is having an affair; or to learn the identities of people getting together for a political rally — a possible infringement of the right to assembly.

David Fidanque, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, doesn’t mind the system being used to catch criminals. But, he says, the government shouldn’t be collecting massive amounts of information on innocent people, “What the ACLU wants to do is not to prohibit the police from using this technology,” he said, “but put strict limits on how long the data can be retained if there isn’t a hit on the license plate.”

The ACLU is drawing up legislation requiring police to erase any number plate logged after 24 hours, unless specifically related to a criminal issue.

The police want to keep the records for four years because they once had a case that they solved by keeping the information that long.

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