Watch out who you line up with and why- local law enforcement and the surveillance state E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

Forget all that crap about layoffs, draconian budget cuts, the dissolution of tried and tested anti-crime programs and the rest of it. According to Vernon Keenan, the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI), the ongoing revelations about the NSA spying are the real threat to the future of public safety in this country.

The leak of highly classified documents by former private contractor Edward Snowden have led to tighter restrictions on key technology advances, Keenan noted at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in October.

He said disclosures that the NSA routinely hacks the emails and monitors communications of everyone from law-abiding Americans to the President of Mexico, could gum up the works in terms of U.S. law enforcement being able to fight crime.

“The scrutiny that the NSA has come under filters down to us,” Keenan said.

Based on some of today's headlines he might be on to something. For a quick look at headlines (just today's) about police and the surveillance state click here:

A recent case filed by 18 Wabasha County conservative activists, featuring no less than a state representative and two sitting county commissioners, involves accusations of the police prying into driver license data and using military facial recognition technology for political purposes.

“You line up dates and start to look at what was I doing around those different times and why are these particular pings concentrated here and it’s pretty clear,” said Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) His records were accessed 94 times.

“There’s definitely activity that coincides with political activity.  I had a good number of pings that happened right after announcing for office in two different general elections and one special election,” Drazkowski said.

Some say the problem is all of these new tools were essentially dumped on law enforcement agencies with almost nothing in the way of clear legal standards to govern their use. Charles Ramsey, the commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Dept., and the president of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) also advises caution.

“We have to remind ourselves – just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it,” he said.

For local law enforcement, there’s another issue to think about. The NSA, the FBI and other federal agencies are not as dependent on the public’s trust or the way they’re perceived.

Peace officers have no such luxury. In times like these, it’s a pretty good bet that when the right and left ends of the political spectrum agree on something, it’s worth a hard look.

Edward Snowden has a public approval rating of about 60 percent.

That’s 20 points higher than the President and 15 times better than the ratings for the NSA and their enablers in the House and Senate.

The reason law enforcement has a 90-plus percent approval rating with Americans is due to a lot of hard work, none of it having anything to do with technology.

It’s all about building trust, saving lives and protecting people from crime. 

It would be a real shame to throw all that good will away because cops decided to line up with the NSA for the free gear and short oney instead of the people and communities officers are charged with serving and protecting from all enemies foreign and domestic.

It really comes down to an individual perspective – are the people in the communities we serve and protect potential evil-doers who need to have their phones tapped and faces stored in CIA and FBI databases?

Or is that the mindset of someone who should not be working in local law enforcement?

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