Washington Police: 'We Have To Respond With Smartphones Almost As Fast As We Respond With Guns'

from the say-what? dept

"If you see something, say something" is the (hilariously trademarked) phrase that has become something of a ridiculous "spy on your neighbors" cliche in the years following September 11, 2001. Law enforcement types use it all the time. However, apparently, they don't want you to say (or, more specifically, tweet) something, if the "something" you see happens to be the police themselves. We've written so many stories about uninformed police insisting that it's illegal to photograph or videotape them in action -- even though they're completely wrong about that. Amazingly, even the Justice Department has found itself constantly reminding police that it's perfectly legal for citizens to photograph and videotape police.

However, over in Washington State, the police are apparently taking a preemptive approach to citizen criminal-enablers and their mobile phones. They've kicked off a marketing campaign telling people not to share photos of SWAT teams and police on social media.
Police in Washington state are asking the public to stop tweeting during shootings and manhunts to avoid accidentally telling the bad guys what officers are doing.

The "TweetSmart" campaign began in late July by a coalition of nine agencies, including the Washington state patrol and the Seattle police, and aims to raise awareness about social media's potential impact on law enforcement.
They claim, of course, that this is about not tipping off criminals about what's going on:
"All members of the public may not understand the implications of tweeting out a picture of SWAT team activity," said Nancy Kolb, who oversees the Alexandria, Virginia, organization's Center for Social Media.

"It's a real safety issue, not only for officers but anyone in the vicinity," Kolb said.
But that seems ridiculous and unsupported in so many ways. First of all, it assumes that the "criminals" being gone after with SWAT teams are actively watching Twitter for the latest reports of SWAT teams mobilizing. Hell, you'd think it would be a lot "safer" for everyone else in the area to find out that there's something going down and to maybe stay inside until it's over.

It seems a hell of a lot more likely that this campaign is really an underhanded way to shut down the public's civil liberties in overseeing what the police are doing by photographing and videotaping them. In fact, a spokesman for the Washington State police, Bob Calkins, more or less admits that this is all about stopping people from taping the police:
"We have to respond with a smart phone almost as fast as we respond with a gun," said Calkins, who along with Kolb commended the Seattle Police Department for its use of social media.
That seems rather chilling, especially given the number of times we've seen police claim that a phone might be a gun. Police across the country need to realize that they serve the public. Treating smartphones as guns and encouraging censorship doesn't seem to be achieving those goals.

Indeed, as reporter Mónica Guzmán notes about all of this:
When any entity that holds power over us encourages us to limit our expression for any reason, it is probably better for us to err on the side of expressing more than it would want than less.
Guzmán also counters the narrative that the Washington Police want to spread. Calkins, the guy who talked about responding to a phone like a gun, claims that his feelings on this date back to the well-known manhunt in Lakewood five years ago:
"I saw it personally as far back as Lakewood," said State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins, referring to social media traffic during the manhunt for a man wanted for killing four officers in Washington state in 2009.

At the time, people speculated online about why police were combing a Seattle park while a search was on for the man, Calkins said.
The AP article says that this event contributed to the police's determination that they need to train people to shut up on Twitter. Yet Guzmán remembers the event very differently:
During the 2009 manhunt of Lakewood, Wash., police shooter Maurice Clemmons, Seattleites were scared. Neighbors gave each other peace of mind by sharing what they saw, where, and where danger seemed to be headed, in real time. All that buzz drew attention to the effort, resulting in hundreds of tips to police from all over and a sense of unity that brought the city together in support of our officers.
In other words, seeing the police and tweeting about it actually helped that situation, rather than hurt it. While the police in Washington may claim they're just trying to keep people safe by asking them to not tweet what they see, it really seems that the safety they're protecting is their own reputation.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 9:28am

    Cue the Streisand Effect

    When will the authorities learn that telling people not to engage in Constitutionally-protected activities will only result in them doing it more?

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 9:44am

      Re: Cue the Streisand Effect

      When the authorities finally figure out that having authority is NOT the same as having working brains.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Bergman (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 11:48pm

      Re: Cue the Streisand Effect

      It's actually a federal crime for a police officer to use his authority to order someone not to exercise a constitutional right (worth a year in prison, if you could get the DoJ to bother to prosecute).

      An advertising campaign asking people to not exercise their rights is treading dangerously close to that line.

       

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  •  
    icon
    Padpaw (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 9:49am

    criminals don't like to have their crimes exposed by those they view with contempt

     

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  •  
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    sehlat (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 9:53am

    Message to Washington Police (and cops everywhere)

    If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 9:54am

    I think the quote is being taken out of context. Specifically, I think the replacement of the word "with" with "to" in the title quote is very misleading. Here's the paragraph before the quoted bit:

    Calkins said police agencies can do their own preventative maintenance with social media by getting information out there when crime is happening.

    "We have to respond with a smart phone almost as fast as we respond with a gun," said Calkins, who along with Kolb commended the Seattle Police Department for its use of social media.


    With context, I think it's clear Calkins is saying that the police need to get information out as fast as they respond with a gun. The campaign might still be "an underhanded way to shut down the public's civil liberties" but don't take quotes and change the meaning of them.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:07am

      Re:

      With context, I think it's clear Calkins is saying that the police need to get information out as fast as they respond with a gun. The campaign might still be "an underhanded way to shut down the public's civil liberties" but don't take quotes and change the meaning of them.

      You could be right, but I'm not convinced of it. I took the meaning to be "we have to respond [to a situation] with a smartphone almost as fast as we [respond to a situation] with a gun."

      If you read it your way... I'm not sure it makes sense. Police shouldn't be "responding with a gun" for the most part. That's only in extreme cases that a police officer should take out a gun. So if that's the meaning... then it would suggest they should rarely make use of the smartphone.

      Either way... it doesn't make much sense.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:14am

        Re: Re:

        So if that's the meaning... then it would suggest they should rarely make use of the smart

        you could have stopped there . . . :)

         

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:17am

        Re: Re:

        Police shouldn't be "responding with a gun" for the most part.


        True - but when they do, it's usually swift. He didn't say "as often as", he said "as fast as".

        I took the meaning to be "we have to respond [to a situation] with a smartphone almost as fast as we [respond to a situation] with a gun."


        Yeah, that's one possible reading. Obviously that's not the way several of us AC's took it, but I can't say you're definitely wrong, since they are possibly responding to AND with a smartphone.

        But even if he did mean it that way, that's not to say that they're responding WITH a gun - the context makes it clear that they're responding with information.

         

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        Chris Brand, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:30am

        Re: Re:

        When they do need to respond with a gun, they certainly have to do so quickly. How fast you use a tool has little to do with how frequently you use it.

         

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      •  
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        John Fenderson (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 11:17am

        Re: Re:

        I agree with the AC's interpretation. It's poorly worded either way, but that's the interpretation that seems the intended one to me.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 9:57am

    Misleading title

    We Have To Respond To Smartphones Almost As Fast As We Respond To Guns


    That's the article title, but the actual quote is slightly different:

    We have to respond with a smart phone almost as fast as we respond with a gun


    WITH a smart phone. Not TO a smart phone. If you read it in the context of the paragraph above and below it in the AP article, it's clear that this particular sentence is talking about getting information to the public to prevent speculation. I doubt many here would disagree with that goal.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:03am

    "We have to respond with a smart phone almost as fast as we respond with a gun,"

    Compared to the article's title:

    "We have to respond TO SMARTPHONES almost as fast we respond TO GUNS".

    In the AP article, the "We have to respond with a smart phone almost as fast as we respond with a gun" quotation is preceded by: "Calkins said police agencies can do their own preventative maintenance with social media by getting information out there when crime is happening."

    Calkins is referring to police use of social media, not citizen's use.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:11am

      Re:

      Calkins is referring to police use of social media, not citizen's use.


      Responded to this above a couple times, but then his quote would make no sense. Because police should rarely be making use of their guns -- and so there he's saying they should respond with smartphones even less rarely? Huh?

      Perhaps he just spoke in a really clunky way...

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:19am

        Re: Re:

        It makes sense in that, when one has to respond with a gun, one has to respond quickly.

        Perhaps it's clunky phrasing, but I think it makes less sense than police responding to someone taking picture with the same speed they respond to a criminal gun-shooting incident.

        In every video of police harassing bystanders taking video with cellphones that has been linked to on this site, does it look to you like the way police would respond to a gunman? Just by harassing the gunman then arresting the gunman for interfering with police activity or whatever? I don't think so.

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 12:58pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          In every video of police harassing bystanders taking video with cellphones that has been linked to on this site, does it look to you like the way police would respond to a gunman?

          Give 'em some time, they'll get there.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Colin, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:19am

        Re: Re:

        It makes perfect sense. He means that releasing information is as important as physically taking action. You're focused too much on "guns" which is obviously a symbol -- just like he doesn't mean that they can only provide updates (via social media or other) with a smartphone. Your interpretation doesn't make sense in the context of the rest of the article.

        In any case, deliberately changing the quote for the headline is misleading at best and unethical at worse. As someone who contributed to your Beacon campaign, I'm disappointed and expect more responsible articles.

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:39am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "In any case, deliberately changing the quote for the headline is misleading at best and unethical at worse."

          I agree completely. At the very least, the quotation should be corrected in the headline of this article.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
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          Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:54am

          Re: Re: Re:

          In any case, deliberately changing the quote for the headline is misleading at best and unethical at worse.

          I've changed the headline. The original was shortened to better fit, and to represent the basics of what I believed he was saying, as I've explained. You've presented a compelling argument that he may have meant it differently so I've changed it -- but it was certainly not designed to be misleading. I apologize if you found it to be that way.

           

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          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 11:14am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Thank you for understanding our concerns and for the professionalism with which you handled the situation. :)

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:08am

    Can we get a hashtag for SWAT team photos?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:08am

    When the police are militarized and take on the roll of an occupying force, then the citizenry has only two options; Surrender their rights, or become freedom fighters.

     

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  •  
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    connermac725 (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:10am

    Instead of condeming

    why don't they use like the tool it is rather than saying do not use it at all

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:21am

    "Police across the country need to realize that they serve the public."

    Nice fantasy you've got there.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Case, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:22am

    Funny thing is, if SWATs were used in situations they were intended for, they'd have a good point: A barricaded gunman could certainly profit from having a nearly real-time look at the police actions. But if the standard deployment is busting some lowly pot dealer...

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Chris Brand, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:28am

    Not sure about that quote

    "We have to respond with a smart phone almost as fast as we respond with a gun,"
    He says "with", not "to", so he's not talking about responding *to* a smart phone. It's difficult to know exactly what that quote is saying, actually (I can't find it in context anywhere). My bets guess is that the police need to be quick to respond to things on social media.

    Of course this is one of those cases where society generally accepts that the risk of helping the few people who are the subject of the action is outweighed by the benefit of helping the vast majority of people who aren't.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 11:06am

      Re: Not sure about that quote

      My bets guess is that the police need to be quick to respond to things on social media.

      Which is almost as bad as stopping people reporting on what they can see. It would require a police officer on the scene to report quickly, and if the situation is dangerous they should have more important things to do that watch and respond to Twitter and Facebook posts. Anybody back at the station following the action closely enough to report accurately should also have better things to do, like keeping control of the situation.
      If they are doing their job in the correct manner, they can respond latter when things calm down, and they have accurate information to use. If things are going bad, the best response from the authorities is often silence until they have pieced together what actually happened. Trying to make the police look good is only likely to inflame the situation if things have gone bad.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 11:29am

        Re: Re: Not sure about that quote

        That depends on the situation. Sometimes dedicating one person to telling people via media to avoid an area because there's a shooter on the loose is better than dedicating 2 officers to crowd control - especially if that person is someone like a spokesman who isn't going to go to that area anyway.

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 12:25pm

          Re: Re: Re: Not sure about that quote

          Putting that sort of information out on various media services does not eliminate the need for the crowd control, as not everybody follows the media all the time. In any case putting a warning out on various media is not the same as trying to respond to what is going out on the media, which is what I was discussing.

           

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  •  
    identicon
    PacWe097, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:30am

    It's Seattle Police not "Washington" Police

    Keep in mind this is about the Seattle Police, not the Washington State Patrol or any other protection agency.

    Also keep in mind that the Seattle Police are still under Federal oversight for their violent abuses against citizens.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:56am

      Re: It's Seattle Police not "Washington" Police

      Keep in mind this is about the Seattle Police, not the Washington State Patrol or any other protection agency.


      Article actually says it's both...

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:57am

      Re: It's Seattle Police not "Washington" Police

      Actually, it's both.

      The "TweetSmart" campaign is "by a coalition of nine agencies, including the Washington state patrol and the Seattle police". The specific quote "We have to respond with a smart phone almost as fast as we respond with a gun" is by a State Patrol spokesman.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 10:32am

    That seems rather chilling, especially given the number of times we've seen police claim that a phone might be a gun.

    In less than 10 years we are going to have contact lens that can record what people are looking at, how are the cops going to respond then?

     

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    gorehound (profile), Aug 15th, 2014 @ 12:26pm

    Fuck the PIGS !!
    You all have the legal and constitutional right to film these pigs whenever you want to providing you do not step over a crime zone area which has been roped/taped off.
    Standing on the sidewalk across the street, etc is not getting in their way and from here you can take photos,films and there is not one thing they can do legally.
    If they have arrested you and/or confiscated your device then talk to a lawyer and sue them for the maximum amount allowed.

    Best SCENARIO:
    When filming the asshole pigs have some one stand away from you out of sight even keeping a surveilance on you so if they do harass you a visual record will be had which you can use in a Court of Law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 3:11pm

    Is it just the higher up speaking without researching again?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2014 @ 8:32pm

    You would think the police would want the suspect to use his/her cellphone. It makes it easier to track them down with Stingray triangulation. Even if the suspect steals a cellphone, the police can then track the cellphone reported stolen.

    I feel sorry for the fool who gets their intelligence information from strangers on Twitter while they're on the run.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Josh, Aug 16th, 2014 @ 5:03am

    I find it so stupid that people say and continue to say dispute the visible facts that the police work to serve us. If all the laws that are passed and action that are taken are the complete opposite then their purpose is what they are doing now. You can say its a cops job to protect me but facts are quite different. You know legally they have 0 responsibility to actually do anything to help you. Cops are a p@ssy military. They call it local protection so that most of the retards that inhabit this country will call in line and show them an incredibly undeserved amount of respect. Cops are by their very nature a suppressing force. So that means an enemy of the public. But don't worry if you just follow what these dumb cops tell u no matter what it is. You'll be fine.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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