New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg loves the idea of surveillance cameras being installed everywhere in the city. He said that the use of security cameras is vital in solving and preventing crimes. To critics who were concerned about a Big Brother surveillance state, he scoffed, “Get used to it.” The loss of liberty is worth the false sense of security a surveillance state might provide.
But a recent federal court decision has Big Brother Bloomberg outraged. The judge ruled that New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy is unconstitutional. If you’re unfamiliar with this program, it’s a practice by the NYPD whereby they can stop anyone at any time, interrogate him and frisk him. No warrants needed. No probable cause. Just a subjective and arbitrary “reasonable suspicion” that a particular person might be up to no good. Or no reasonable suspicion at all. It could be completely random.
Bloomberg has praised this program, because it’s yielded 8,000 “illegal” guns and thousands of other weapons. And I’m sure if the NYPD conducted mandatory daily home inspections of every city resident, they’d catch even more criminals, drug users and child abusers. After all, the loss of liberty brought about by violations of the 4th Amendment is worth the potential “security” inherent in a police state.
Part of the federal judge’s ruling was for the NYPD to wear cameras to document their every move. The New York Times reported:
“In her ruling, Judge Scheindlin ordered that the department set up a one-year pilot program that would compel officers to wear cameras in the precincts where the most police stops were being performed: Mott Haven in the Bronx, East Harlem in Manhattan, Jamaica and Hollis in Queens, East New York in Brooklyn and the North Shore of Staten Island. The cameras would provide various benefits, Judge Scheindlin wrote, including providing ‘a contemporaneous, objective record of stop-and-frisks’ that might ‘either confirm or refute the belief of some minorities that they may have been stopped simply as a result of their race, or based on the clothes they wore, such as baggy pants or a hoodie.’ If parties know they are being recorded, she wrote, more ‘respectful’ interactions will also be encouraged.”
Neither Bloomberg nor the NYPD Police Chief Ray Kelly like this idea at all. “It would be a nightmare,” Bloomberg said. “We can’t have your cameraman follow you around and film things without people questioning whether they deliberately chose an angle, whether they got the whole picture in.”
Bloomberg wants cameras everywhere watching the citizens. But don’t dare try to hold public officials accountable in the same way. Even if such a program makes people safer. In April, the New York Times reported on the city of Rialto, California doing this very thing that Judge Scheindlin ordered. Its effects were drastic:
“The results from the first 12 months are striking. Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers, compared with the 12 months before the study, to 3 from 24. Rialto’s police officers also used force nearly 60 percent less often — in 25 instances, compared with 61. When force was used, it was twice as likely to have been applied by the officers who weren’t wearing cameras during that shift, the study found.”
Bloomberg wants guns and a security force for himself, but not for lowly civilians. He wants them under constant video surveillance, but not for government officials. “Rights for me, but not for thee.”