Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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December 21, 2013

Police should get used to the GPS microscope

Somebody needs to tell certain police unions that the “privacy-is-dead” reality applies to them as well as the rest of us.

Police departments, with the full support of their unionized workforces, have enthusiastically embraced technology that increases their surveillance powers by orders of magnitude — in many cases for good reason.

Most in the general public support it, as well. We want them to have all reasonable tools to prevent criminals, many of whom are also tech-savvy, from preying on the rest of us.

But now that surveillance technology is focusing on police — in part to make a department’s operations more efficient, effective and safer, but also to monitor the performance and whereabouts of officers on the job — ironically enough, you start hearing words like “invasive” and “intrusive.”

Most recently, that is the case in Boston. The department, as part of a new contract, is planning to have GPS tracking installed in cruisers, and also to install better video monitoring in stations to record how suspects are treated while in custody.

As one anonymous officer put it, while asserting that none of his colleagues supported it, “Who wants to be followed all over the place?”

Well, yeah. Do they think the rest of us enjoy it?

It is unnerving for office workers to know that their every move online can be tracked by their employers, or that video cameras may monitor the length of their bathroom breaks or how long they spend in the cafeteria. The same is true for many snowplow drivers, who know that management is tracking their vehicles to make sure they are doing their routes instead of sitting at the coffee shop.

Boston’s school bus drivers walked off the job in a wildcat strike recently, in protest of GPS tracking in their vehicles.

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