Body Cameras: Smile While You’re Hitting Me

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If only police wore body cameras…

“Body cameras will reduce violence.”

“Wear a camera and assaults against officers will decrease.”

“There will be less incidents of force by officers if they’re forced to wear body cameras.”

Those were just some of the comments we heard when the issue of police body cameras first began to emerge. So yes, police officers across the U.S. have begun to wear cameras as part of their duty gear, but the results of their use are a bit surprising.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge worked with eight police forces across the UK and US—West Midlands, Cambridgeshire and Northern Ireland’s PSNI, as well as Ventura, California and Rialto, California. The research (a large study involving 2,122 officers, 2.2 million officer-hours, and interaction with 2 million citizens) was comprised of ten randomized-controlled trials where officers either wore body cameras that were switched on the entire time of their shifts, did not wear body cameras, or they wore cameras but were permitted to switch them on or off at the officers’ discretion.

The results:

  • Use of force incidents by officers wearing cameras fell by 37% (suspects readily complied with officer commands).
  • Use of force rose by 71% among officers who were permitted to switch cameras on and off at their discretion.
  • The rate of assaults against officers wearing cameras increased by 15% as opposed to non-camera-wearing officers.
  • Assaults against officers were greater in number when the officer told a suspect they were being recorded or when they announced they were switching on their cameras.
  • Officers wearing cameras reported more assaults against them as opposed to the officers who were not wearing cameras. It’s thought that officers wearing cameras felt they could report assaults because they had video proof of the incidents.

Further study is needed to determine if wearing a body camera causes officers to feel less confident/self-assured which could result in being more vulnerable and susceptible to assault. This could be the cause for the increase in number of attacks against camera-wearing officers.

An odd thing about the study is that it showed the results varied from one area to another, meaning that camera use in one location within a city may produce a different reaction in another. For example, the presence of a body camera could be welcomed in the south side of AnyTown, but in the north side the presence of a body camera they might anger those residents. The same is true from town to town. Town A citizens might love seeing their officers wearing cameras. However, Town B citizens may feel resentment or enticed to use violence against the officers who’re recording their actions.

My take on the study results – body cameras may or may not be a good thing, and whether they are or are not is controlled by a number of influences over both the police and citizens, including human judgement, human error, and even human emotion—fear, shame, pride, etc. So, like anything else where split second decisions are made…it depends. That’s my answer and I’m sticking to it…maybe.

 

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Officer, Please Button Your Shirt and Zip Up Your Pants!

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Working the graveyard shift was always a thorn in my side, and the reason for the ill will boils down to the simple fact that I like to sleep when the rest of the humans I know are sleeping. Yes, I too, like to go to bed when the moon is in the sky, when birds are roosting, and when sweet, darling burglars are out and about plying their trade.

If, by design, man should earn a living at the time when bats are flitting, fluttering, and circling streetlights, well, we’d most certainly have leathery wings and would sit down to plates of steaming hot mosquitos for our evening meals. We’d have built-in night vision, and we’d enjoy long walks in cemeteries. So yeah, in spite of once being a hardcore night person who for many years played guitar in bands that performed in dive bars and clubs across the south, I had a hard time keeping my eyes open once the clock struck 4 a.m. That particular time, of course, was the precise moment when the sandman began to tug downward on the invisible strings attached to my eyelids. I prefer to sleep AT NIGHT. Thank you very much.

But, being a person who truly enjoyed receiving a regular paycheck, at 11 p.m. each night of the midnight shift rotation, I’d shower and shave and then begin the process of transforming from gardener, cook, dad, husband, neighbor, repairman, mechanic, and carpenter, into the police officer known to the citizens on my watch. By the way, this metamorphosis must be completed in near silence because your family is fast asleep and dreaming of unicorns and fairies and happy thoughts of not having to go to work or school in the middle of the night.

So, after a dab of Old Spice to cool the sensitive post-shave cheeks, came the installation of proper undergarments—boxers, briefs, or whatever bottom-huggers were your preference, if any. This step also includes putting on a pair of anaconda-strength, calf-crushing socks that’re designed to never slip downward. After all, there are not many things worse than having your socks inch toward your ankles while you’re sprinting through backyards and alleys trying to catch the guy who just robbed the clerk at Billy’s BBQ and Butt-Waxing Emporium.

Also included in the installation of the “unmentionables,” was donning a cooling t-shirt. These handy articles of clothing are designed to wick moisture, ward off humidity, and reduce the beneath-the-Kevlar temperature to a manageable 2,000 degrees instead of the typical “bake-a-loaf-of-bread-in-under-two-seconds” heat every officer endures on a daily basis, especially the men and women who work in areas of extreme humidity.

The type of trousers officers wear depends upon their assignment and/or department policy. For now, let’s put our feet, legs, and rear end into a pair of those fancy polyether pants, the ones with the sporty racing stripes that stretch from waist to ankle on the outside of each leg. That material is as slick and odd-feeling as eel snot when the eel is suffering from a bad summer cold.

Once the pants are on it’s best to leave them unfastened until tucking the front and rear tails of the vest carrier (the material that holds the Kevlar panels in place) into your trousers. I knew several officers who also tucked the tails of their undershirts into their underwear to prevent the loose material from riding up and going all wonky beneath the vest. A dress belt is slipped through each of the pant loops (more on this belt in a moment).

After the pants are in place it’s time for the shiny shoes, which, by the way, are fabricated from some sort of space-age stay-shiny-all-the-time material. The days of shoe-shining, thankfully, went out with the round red bubblegum lights perched on the tops of patrol cars. Although, I sort of missed shining my own shoes because the scent of shoe polish was sort of comforting, much like the cooking smells at grandma’s house on Thanksgiving Day.

I say now is the time to put on the shoes because it’s far easier to do so BEFORE putting on the Kevlar vest, a contraption that hinders bending over, taking deep breaths, and scratching those pesky itches that always occur the moment the vest is strapped in place.

This thing, “the vest,” a life-saving piece of gear for sure, is like strapping two chunks of dense clay to your chest and back. You slip the thing over your head, taking care to not whack yourself in the noggin, a blow that could induce instananeous unconsciousness. Heaven forbid you should wake the rest of the family when your body hits the floor, right? Anyway, a quick pull on the velcro straps while mashing the hooks and loops together, and then you’re ready to reach for the shirt.

The uniform shirt, a billboard of sorts that advertises an officer’s rank, length of  time in service, conduct status, how well they shoot, and even their name in case a safe-space-rock-tossing protester for the cause du jour wants to include it in the latest social media video, is the most complicated garment of them all. And that’s due to those various pins, medals, and badges that must be arranged and fastened in their respective places. It helps to do all of this in advance because it’s a bit tedious and time-consuming.

There’s a spot on the shirt that’s designed specifically for the badge. It’s easy to spot due to the two permanently sewn-in badge tabs which help prevent excessive wear and tear on the material caused by daily pinning and unpinning. The shirts also feature permanent sewn-in military creases, stiff collar stays, and a slick, stain-resistant finish for repelling blood, grime, and other “goop” that could find it’s way onto the material during a scuffle or bad burrito spill. Some uniform shirts are also fitted with zip-up fronts, in which case the zippers are covered by a thin strip of vertical material and row of buttons that serve no purpose other than to give the appearance that they’re used to button-up the shirt. Zippered shirts are great because bad guys cannot rip and pop the buttons during a friendly “encounter.”

Here’s an example of some do-dads worn by officers.

From top to bottom:

– Name tag.

– Award ribbons – Community service award, length of service, expert marksman, lifesaving award, medal of valor.

– Pistol expert (in our area, to earn this award the officer must consistently shoot an average of 95% or better on the range).

– FTO pin worn by field training officers.

– K9 pin worn by K9 officers

– FTO pin issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia (many years ago).

*Remember, ribbons and pins may vary in individual departments and agencies.

Pins on the back of name tags, ribbons, etc. are used to attach the insignias to an officer’s uniform. A small clasp (similar to an ear ring backing) is pressed over the pin tips to hold them in place.

Unfortunately, the clasps often fall off during scuffles with rowdy bad guys, and (if the officer is not wearing a bullet-resistant vest) can result in the pin tips puncturing the officer’s skin.

For a quick fix in the field, lost clasps can be temporarily replaced with pencil erasers.

So, with all articles of the uniform in place, you are now in position to tuck the tails of the vest carrier into the pants, button up, zip up, close up, buckle the dress belt, and then add the final piece to the puzzle…the gun belt.

Gun belts wrap around the waist, hook in the front, and are attached to the dress belt to hold it in place. Belt keepers are are used to connect the gun belt to the dress belt. Their purpose is to prevent the gun belt from falling down around the ankles, an act that could cause a bit of embarrassment, and make drawing the weapon extremely difficult.

Two belt keepers, between the two handcuff cases, loop over both the gun belt and the dress belt. They’re held together by the two pairs of silver snaps pictured here. Some keepers have only one snap. Belt keepers are worn in various locations around the belt. Specific placement and the number of keepers used is up to the officer and depends upon where support is needed.

So, once the officer is properly attired and outfitted, it’s time to tiptoe out the front door, taking care to not wake anyone. However, the leather creaks, keys, jingle, shoes squeak, and the radio crackles. But you look fantastic, even with the trail of toilet tissue stuck to the bottom of one super-shiny shoe. It’s a shame, though, that all the clunky and heavy gear and care you put into looking sharp and dressing sharp prevents you from bending over to far enough to remove it.

So, you make your first split-second decision of the night. The toilet tissue stays and off you go.

Hopefully, somewhere between eight and twelve hours later the sweaty and exhausted officer, the one with the wrinkled and rumpled uniform, will return home where he/she will begin the process in reverse…and then try to sleep when the sun is high in the sky, the streetlights are off, and while the rest of the family is banging and clanging around the house, the TV is blaring, the neighbor is mowing his lawn, a mockingbird is singing its ass off in the tree next to their window, and the dog is licking their face.

Oh, and let’s not forget trying to drift off to sleep while thoughts of the auto crashes, shooting and stabbing victims, pursuits, fights, and battered kids and women all are flashing through their minds.

Yeah, sweet dreams…

 

 

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You Actually Think Your Cell Phone Conversation is Private…LOL

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Worried about government overreach? How about the pesky invasion of your privacy by law enforcement officials and agencies?

Does it bother you that the government, along with fictional mystery writer/PI Richard Castle and crew, has the capability to see practically every step you make and listen to nearly every word you speak? Or, does your next book need a cool high-tech twist? Yes or no, you might want to take a moment to ponder these…

1. Cellbrite Battlefield Recovery – a portable handheld device used to suck a device/phone dry of its data. Extracts photos, text messages, videos, and call logs. You could purchase this cool thingamajig for $9,920, plus a 1 year fee of $900 to cover support and maintenance.

2. Raven – used to interrogate and geolocate target phones. *To interrogate a phone means to trick the target phone into sending its identifiers. Geolocate is to determine the location of a target phone. The Raven can be utilized from fixed wing aircraft or on the ground. The Raven price tag is a modest $800,000.

3. Blackfin – for listening in on calls and viewing text messages. For the low, low fee of $75,000, you, too, can own one these little darlings.

4. DRT (aka “dirt box”) – targets and locates up to 10,000 devices (phones) and tricks them into “thinking” the DRT is a cell tower. DRT then collects and analyzes data, including voice data. Can be used from aircraft or ground. DRT, a soup-up version of the Stingray, has the capability of capturing data from up to 10,000 devices during a single flight/operation. DRT = $100,000. Stingray = $134,952.

5. Stargrazer III – locates devices, captures their data, and jams their signals preventing users from making and receiving calls.

6. Thoracic – handheld cell phone tracking device. Pinpoints location of target phones. $7,500.

*It is believed (it’s true, but you didn’t hear from me) that devices such as the Stingray and DRT are capable of intercepting private conversations by using the person’s cell phone as a “bug.” Simply use the phone’s firmware remotely and it’s like becoming the “fly on the wall.” Some of you may remember the old party-lines where you could pick up your receiver and listen in on the conversations of your neighbors? Yeah, t’s like that.

Isn’t it funny how we’ve traveled full circle, from people wanting to move away from party line phones because they weren’t private, to sophisticated cell phone technology that requires expensive high-tech equipment and resources to transform our newfangled and complicated gadgets back into party line phones.

*For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of sharing your phone line with neighbors.

 

 

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Do You Feel Safer…Now?

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President George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security, a move that merged several agencies under a single umbrella—Coast Guard, National Guard, FEMA, Customs and Border Patrol, TSA, Secret Service, and a gaggle of other three-letter agencies, with the exceptions of the FBI and CIA.

This move was supposed to create a safer America—“a concerted national effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism, and minimize the damage and recover from attacks that do occur,” according to the National Strategy for Homeland Security.

Well, here’s a bit of Homeland Security news that just might give you reason to scratch your head and wonder…

1. During the past 31 months, over 1,300 Homeland Security badges and official credentials have been lost or stolen. These were not items kept in a warehouse, though. Instead, they were the ID’s and badges issued to active-duty agents. 165 department firearms are also missing (lost or stolen). Antonio Ramos, a muralist, was killed in Oakland last November. The weapon used to commit the murder was stolen a couple of months earlier from an ICE officer in San Francisco.

2. The BioWatch program is an initiative of Homeland Security. Its purpose is to detect the release of pathogens into the air as part of a terrorist attack on major American cities. Now, I’m slightly familiar with this program, and Denene is extremely familiar with it. The concept is great. The program works, and it works well.

What? You didn’t know there are “sniffers” in position all across the U.S., especially in cities that are particularly attractive targets for terrorists? Well, they’re out there and there are plenty of them, you just don’t recognize them because they’re mingled in with all of the other hardware attached to every piece of vacant space on telephone poles and other such city or utility real estate.

Since terrorists seem to set their sites on gatherings of large crowds, such as the Super Bowl, Homeland Security decided to place a few portable sniffer boxes in and around downtown San Francisco in advance of the big game next Sunday. I know, the game will be played in Santa Clara, not San Francisco. Santa Clara, by the way, is actually 40 miles away from San Francisco, a distance that can sometimes take a couple of hours to travel if the freeway traffic is in full bloom.

Anyway, Homeland Security officials placed portable sniffers throughout downtown San Francisco, and they chained the boxes to light poles. To power the units they ran the electrical cords to the power poles and tapped into city current.

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KPIX/CNN photo

Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but I believe anyone who can figure out how to plug-in and unplug a basic toaster could surmise that cutting the cord or pulling the plug on this high-tech toxin detector would be all that’s needed to set an evil plan into motion. And we mustn’t forget that the game, and the crowd associated with it, will be some 40 miles away. Therefore, I’m thinking the only “sniffs” these boxes will detect will be those of wino urine and pot smoke (those of you who’ve visited San Francisco will understand). And that’s if the boxes are still plugged in on the day of the game. Hmm…a pair of bolt cutters for the cables and officials may find a couple of these diamond-plate boxes for sale in local pawn shops or in the back of a contractor’s truck being used as a toolbox.

Hey, I know.  A crook could steal two or three and use them to store all those missing badges and guns.

A final thought…do you suppose the boxes are nothing more than decoys, mere empty shells used to fool potential terrorists. Nah…those cowards wouldn’t care if the boxes were there or not. Besides, by the time the sniffers detected a harmful toxin in the area, the people around it would already be toast (notice how I used “toast” to tie in with the earlier reference to “toaster?”). However, an alert from these mini tool boxes would provide ample time to save the politicians who will probably not set foot anywhere near these things.

So, do you feel safer now?

 

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