Loss of Privacy

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

Browsing Posts tagged police

At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance.

The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside of a house, where they are and whether they are moving.

HOW IT WORKS

“The idea that the government can send signals through the wall of your house to figure out what’s inside is problematic,” said Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union’s principal technologist. “Technologies that allow the police to look inside of a home are among the intrusive tools that police have.”

Agents’ use of the radars was largely unknown until December, when a federal appeals court in Denver said officers had used one before they entered a house to arrest a man wanted for violating his parole. The judges expressed alarm that agents had used the new technology without a search warrant, warning that “the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions.”

By then, however, the technology was hardly new. Federal contract records show the Marshals Service began buying the radars in 2012, and has so far spent at least $180,000 on them.

More at USA Today.

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The NYPD has been using a secretive program for several years using unmarked vans with x-ray machines inside. They’re supposed to detect bombs. ProPublica spent three years attempting to determine what the program was about, but the NYPD refused. It took a judge to order the release of the records to learn anything.

The ruling follows a nearly three-year legal battle by ProPublica, which had requested police reports, training materials, contracts and any health and safety tests on the vans under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

ProPublica filed the request as part of its investigation into the proliferation of security equipment, including airport body scanners, that expose people to ionizing radiation, which can mutate DNA and increase the risk of cancer.

Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s law department, said Thursday that the NYPD would appeal “because disclosing this sensitive information would compromise public safety.”

The X-ray vans at issue are essentially a version of older airport body scanners mounted on a truck.

The X-ray vans—which reportedly cost between $729,000 and $825,000 each—are designed to find organic materials such as drugs and explosives. The rays penetrate the metal in a car or concrete in a building and scatter back to a detector, producing an image of what’s inside. The van can scan while driving alongside a row of shipping containers or while parked as cars pass by. Customs agencies around the world have used them to fight drug and human smuggling.

But most Federal Drug Administration regulations for medical X-rays do not apply to security equipment, leaving the decision of when and how to use the scanners up to law enforcement agencies such as the NYPD.

The NYPD’s policies are of particular interest because many agencies have adopted strict policies to address potential harm from backscatter X-ray scans. When Customs began using the vans extensively in 2010, the agency prohibited their use on occupied vehicles and required that people get out of the vehicles before they were X-rayed.

But because the NYPD has refused to release the department’s policies and procedures, it’s unclear how widely the vans are being used—if at all, whether they’re being used to scan people or even if police are deploying them for routine patrols on busy city streets.

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A Victoria, Texas police officer is under investigation for excessive force after he stopped a man for an expired registration sticker.

The officer, Nathanial Robinson, 23, was placed on administrative duty Friday pending the outcome of an internal investigation into whether he violated the use of force policy when he tased Victoria resident Pete Vasquez, said Chief J.J. Craig. The officer was hired after graduating from the police academy two years ago.

The incident happened Thursday after Robinson saw an expired inspection sticker on the car Vasquez was driving back to Adam’s Auto Mart, 2801 N. Laurent St., where he helps with mechanical work.

Vasquez got out of the car, which is owned by the car lot, attempting to get the manager. He pointed out to the officer the dealer tags on the back of the car, which would make it exempt from having an inspection.

“Public trust is extremely important to us,” Craig said. “Sometimes that means you have to take a real hard look at some of the actions that occur within the department.”

The internal investigation also will examine the details of the arrest. Driving with an expired inspection sticker is a Class C misdemeanor, typically addressed with a citation. Because Vasquez was driving a car with dealer tags, the car was exempt, Craig confirmed. Vasquez was released from the hospital without being cited.

Even if the officer was correct, which he wasn’t, a citation was all that was needed. An arrest was not warranted.

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Race is at the forefront of the current debate over the police use of deadly force. But one shooting in Wisconsin highlights another factor at play when police shoot civilians — the lack of outside investigation. And the decade-old death has led to real reform in the state.

More at NPR.

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When Amy Barnes rode her bike to the store to buy some butter, she never thought she’d end up in jail.

In the police dash cam video, Barnes is heard hurling an expletive as she peddles by while they question a suspect.

“(Expletive deleted) the police.”

Barnes, who was unavailable, admitted to FOX 5 News in October of 2012 of her actions.

“And I said (expletive deleted) the police and raised the middle finger and passed by.”

On camera an officer reacted to the profanity: “That ain’t happening.”

Police followed Barnes, arrested her and charged her with disorderly conduct then took her to jail.

Cynthia Counts her attorney says police were heavy handed on Barnes.

“She could have been given a citation, but was arrested, put in solitary confinement, for part of it, she was in jail more than 24 hours.”

Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

The judge dismissed the charge despite claims by police Barnes’ profanity offended others as heard on the police video:

“You see the little kids standing on the corner you think they care to hear your language.”

Barnes and Counts sued the county claiming violation of free speech. Cobb County settled for one hundred thousand dollars.

It doesn’t matter who is offended by the speech. Just because a person doesn’t like what you say, doesn’t mean you can’t say it.

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