from the public-service-entity-enraged-to-discover-it-needs-to-serve-the-public dept
There’s very little that seems to anger public servants more than mandates requiring them to serve the public. For years, the San Diego police department has expanded its surveillance programs. And for years, these expansions have gone unchallenged.
But now that the city has passed an ordinance requiring more direct oversight of police activity, cops are singing the thin blue line blues and claiming the public has no business overseeing the business of public agencies. The cop pushback against slightly increased accountability has begun, as David Hernandez reports for the San Diego Union-Tribune. (h/t Michael Vario)
After years of work to create oversight of surveillance technologies in San Diego, an ordinance that will govern how the city uses the technology received final approval from the City Council this week.
The work began after residents learned in 2019 that the city had installed a network of about 3,000 cameras on streetlights three years earlier, and police used the technology to investigate certain types of crimes. Some residents expressed concerns over potential civil liberty violations and over-policing, particularly in communities of color.
Under the ordinance, the City Council must approve the use of technology that can monitor and identify individuals. City staff members will need to issue reports that outline the intended use of such technology, and the public and a newly created privacy advisory board will be asked to weigh in.
This seems like the least the local government could do, especially when residents have made it clear they’re concerned about always-on surveillance and potential police abuse of the expanded surveillance network.
And this should be the bare minimum asked of police departments. These public agencies are supposed to weigh public safety efforts against the impact on constitutional rights and the public’s expectations that its movements won’t be constantly surveilled by their government.
But this minimal push towards accountability has been greeted by the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) as a declaration of war on the department. Cops may have guns, badges, and a shitload of power, but any time someone demands a little more accountability, police officials make it clear cops have the thinnest skin and the most extreme sense of entitlement.
San Diego police Capt. Jeffrey Jordon said the department uses a host of technological devices that will require approval, including body-worn cameras, polygraphs and forensic lab equipment.
“I’m not aware of any other cities in America that have to report out this many pieces of technology,” he said.
Hilarious. Cops like being ahead of the tech curve, but they truly hate being on the leading edge of accountability and transparency. Jeffrey Jordon should consider himself lucky to be an accountability pioneer. Instead, he acts like the city he serves should be part of the accountability long tail — so far removed from those acting boldly that no one will even notice the SDPD grabbing mandated coattails as its dragged into complying with expectations held by hundreds of law enforcement agencies around the country.
This SDPD official would rather be named “Least Likely to Win the Public’s Trust” than submit to cursory examinations of surveillance tech used by the department. And he makes this assertion despite being given access to a sizable loophole. The ordinance exempts officers participating in federal task forces, which means all the SDPD has to do to avoid this minor increase in public scrutiny is ask federal officers for assistance.
The SDPD’s opposition doesn’t just deserve criticism. It deserves ridicule. Officers sporting blue line flags and misappropriated Punisher gear, who engage in routine rights violations and intimidation are now crying about being asked to answer to the public. Rather than realize they have plenty of power that could be deployed for the public good, SDPD officials are complaining the new mandate will be, at best, slightly inconvenient. The blue in the “thing blue line” stands for bitchassness. When police leaders are asked to step up, they choose to complain about being expected to hold themselves and their officers to a higher standard.
Cry harder. Wipe your tears on your qualified immunity, multiple constitutional exemptions, and generous pension programs. An opportunity was presented that gave the SDPD a chance to repair its damaged relationship with residents. But rather than seize the opportunity, cop officials have chosen to pretend increased accountability is an insult to the business of law enforcement — something so far out of the norm it should be considered an aberration not worth of public support.