The rash of publicity in the United States surrounding the ongoing pattern of murder of black citizens by law enforcement has prompted half-heartedcalls for reform. There is a presidential commission which already had conclusions in mind before it went to work. Those conclusions, echoed by some segments of the new civil rights movement, include body cameras on police officers. The fact that some of the most repressive forces within American policing wanted body cameras before the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore seem to have eluded the press. The London Metropolitan Police want body cameras too. These cameras will open London’s streets to surveillance by American and British intelligence in ways never before possible.
The Met has signed a contract with Taser International for 500 cameras to be placed on police officers as part of a College of Policing proof of concept program. Taser, aside from being one of the leading body camera manufacturers, also makes so-called less than lethal weapons. The name Taser has become synonymous with “device police use to torture suspects”, as they have converted every cop in American into a walking, talking Milgram Experiment.
The intersection between Tasers and cameras outside of the fantasies of the national security state was best illustrated when BART policeman Johannes Mehserle carried out the extrajudicial execution of Oscar Grant in Oakland on New Years Day, 2009. Mehserle claimed he was going to merely shock the handcuffed teenager who was lying face down rather than shoot him. Witnesses took cell camera video of the murder. This resulted in Mehserle being convicted of involuntary manslaughter because he claimed he merely wanted to torture rather than murder the defenseless man.
However it is not the recording capability of the devices that has the police excited to suddenly have a robotic witness present. Taser’s entry into the market, the Axon, is very similar to all other leading market entries. It is a camera with memory attached to a cellular device, both recording and uploading constantly. The policeman is actually a mobile security camera.
Thus the camera can upload when not recording. Everything the camera sees can be stored in the cloud. Every person that passes the policeman on the street gets cataloged if they so much as look at the officer. Their identity can be determined later by applying facial recognition software to the database. That ability was designed long before body cameras were offered as a product for sale to police.
With Taser’s Axon it is not so much an open door for intelligence agency access as it is a missing wall. Taser’s cameras upload to their proprietary cloud based evidence management system called evidence.com. Evidence.com uses cloud computing services purchased from Amazon. Amazon’s cloud computing project was funded by the CIA.
The CIA will then have access to the face of every person who looks at the cop. That recording will be stamped with time and location data. A secondary function of this will be to allow the police and the CIA to build a profile of a persons habits over time. They will not only know where you were, but if you are not normally near there on Tuesdays. The intrusion into your life by Anglo-American intelligence services does not end there.
For speed of data delivery and retrieval, a server farm or two will have to be built or allocated in the UK. During off-peak hours, by the logic of cloud computing, data stored therein can be virtualized to a server farm in the US. The instant it moves to the US and back it becomes legally accessible to the NSA who have an app for that called XKEYSCORE. The instant it leaves the UK it becomes legally accessible to GCHQ. Both agencies share their information with each other under the “five eyes” spying agreement of the post World War II era.
Taser has been spending money to make it’s products comfortable to the UK public. Their Axon Flex (think combination body camera camera/bad 80s sunglasses. Tub of hair gel not included) product is already used by the West Yorkshire Regional Road Crime Unit in the filming of the BBC’s Traffic Cops, which claims it is a documentary but acts as a combination propaganda series/ reality TV show. Thus with a few items given out and some help filming, a government-owned television program quickly leads to real sales.
Thus a London policeman wearing a body camera will be walking down the street and collecting every face and license plate of every person and car, for permanent data basing, by police agencies and three intelligence agencies in two countries. The product is made by a company that makes torture devices for law enforcement and was sold to the public using band propaganda TV on a government owned station. This could be the next great leap in free market innovation.
The idea that somehow cameras reduce use of force and citizen complaints fails the real world test. Video exists of Mehserle executing Oscar grant with gunshot to the back. Yet somehow it was involuntary manslaughter. Video exists of police killing Tamir Rice. They are not in jail. Video exists of the police killing John Crawford in a Walmart while he was on the phone and the officer was not even indicted. The last two examples were in my state in the last year. The London Metropolitan Police somehow lost hundreds of files full of evidence of child rape from 80s because the suspects were alleged to be politically connected. Yet somehow they are not going to hit the delete key on video of themselves giving out a proper kicking? I think not.
Social problems, like police abuse, do not have technical solutions. Social problems are solved by society having the political and social will to overcome them.