Category: Law Enforcement

Why I sat for the National Anthem

So I sat for the anthem yesterday in Oakland.

It’s something that has been on my mind for quite a while. I’ve long been uncomfortable with overt political acts at sporting events, but didn’t want to appear to be weird or extreme by declining to stand. When Colin Kaepernick began kneeling last year, I understood why he was doing it. Using his platform to speak out against persisting institutional racism in American law enforcement and the criminal justice system was to be respected. That his convictions caused him to kneel in order to bring further attention to a problem that prevents many Americans from enjoying the blessings of liberty protected by our Constitution, was also laudable. What he did was hard, and he has paid a significant price for his convictions. Yet, I still didn’t feel it was my place to participate, so I begrudgingly stood.

All of that changed this weekend when President Trump went out of his way to curse Kaepernick and threaten those who would use their voices (or knees) to peacefully protest repeated violations of individual rights. In other words, our top government official sought to use the weight of his office to threaten and urge that the livelihoods be taken away from those who peacefully said things he didn’t like. In the face of that, I didn’t see any way I would stand for the anthem this weekend, or any time soon.

Continue reading

NOPD Finally has a Policy on License Plate Tracking Technology Use

In December 2012 I noted that NOPD had no stated policy regarding its use or retention of data gathered through license plate scanners. Then, in July 2013, I noted that the ACLU had released a nationwide study on law enforcement use of the technology. The results of the study were not very encouraging if you are concerned about privacy and transparency.

Well, I am happy to announce that I recently discovered that NOPD finally has a policy! Policy 462 of the New Orleans Police Department Policy Manual of December 15, 2014 covers Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR). The policy begins on page 376 of the PDF if you want to read the entire policy, and also picks back up on page 891.

Some highlights:

  • The technology can only be used for official and legitimate law enforcement purposes.
  • In the event of any real-time alerts generated by the technology, officers are urged to verify the validity of the alert before taking enforcement actions.
  • Access to data gathered by the system is controlled.

Some concerns:

  1. Under the policy, data is allowed to remain on the reader for 30 days, and once downloaded to the main server it is retained for up to 180 days (6 months) unless the data is identified as evidence or subject to records requests.
  2. The policy allows for all data to be shared with other law enforcement agencies.
  3. The policy also mentions that images are gathered but treats them the same as other license plate-only data that is gathered.
  4. The policy does not include any public reporting of the use of the technology beyond what is mentioned in the policy.

I am concerned about #1 because data could be stored for 7 months under this policy. It is impossible to know if this is too long of a retention period absent further information from NOPD that retaining info for up to 7 months is necessary. I am of the opinion that the shortest possible retention periods are to be preferred.

Number 2 concerns me because the policy does not specify any limitations on sharing data with other agencies other than the requirement that it be for legitimate law enforcement purposes. The policy should require that the agency shared with also maintain a policy of short retention periods and controlled access.

Concern #3 could be addressed by a clarification of how images are stored, what they are used for, and the extent of detail included in images. Are we talking headshots of drivers and passengers, or just images of the vehicle surrounding the license plate?

Finally, #4 concerns me because while the policy requires regular internal audits, it does not allow the public to know how much data is gathered, how many crimes are solved with the data, how long data should be stored for, how many false alerts are generated, or primary neighborhoods the technology is deployed in, etc.. The ACLU recommends at least an annual public reporting, and I’m happy to agree with that at the moment.

In any event, I am pleased to finally see a written policy on the use of license plate scanners. This is a good first step in transparency and privacy, but it should be just that: a first step.

Marijuana Legalization Progressing in Louisiana?

Tomorrow, January 21, 2014 in the Louisiana House of Representatives, at the request of Rep. Dalton Honore the Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice will hold a hearing to request a study on the feasibility of legalizing marijuana use and possession. I have to admit I am very (pleasantly) surprised they’re even talking about it. I’m not going to get my hopes up, but at least the conversation is progressing.

The link to the committee agenda is here.

Upcoming Events

The Loyola Law School chapter of The Federalist Society will be hosting a couple noteworthy speakers in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013:

Baylen Linnekin, the man responsible for the recently filed lawsuit against the Bloomberg Administration to force New York City to disclose information about its food policymaking, Reason Magazine contributor and executive director of Keep Food Legal, a Washington, D.C. non-profit that advocates in favor of everyone’s right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat, and drink the foods of their own choosing. Linnekin will be speaking about food freedom. Also, Andrew Legrand, attorney for the New Orleans Food Truck Coalition, will be on hand to talk about the work the NOFTC did to reform NOLA food truck ordinances earlier this year.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013:

Radley Balko, senior writer for Huffington Post and author of the new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop. Balko is an award-winning investigative journalist who focuses on civil liberties and the criminal justice system and will be speaking about the increasing militarization of America’s police forces.

Both events will be held from 12:30-1:30 pm in room 306 in the Loyola Law School building, 526 Pine St., NOLA 70118.

 

License Plate Tracking Update

Back in December I noted that NOPD has no stated policy for their usage and retention of data gathered through its use of license plate scanners. I was alarmed at this, but haven’t had much time to pursue it further.

Fortunately, the ACLU shares my concerns. Today, the ACLU released a report that analyzes the results of a nation-wide study on law enforcement policies of using and retaining data acquired by these scanners. The results are not good for privacy concerns.

New Orleans or Louisiana are not specifically mentioned in the study, but I intend to restart this project and attempt to get the Independent Police Monitor involved in the next couple of months. As I stated in December, “All I want to know is exactly what NOPD uses this data for and how long they keep it. I don’t think that’s asking too much.”

Stay tuned!