Monday, December 12, 2016

Secrecy of Stingray tracking of Minnesotan's is because of ignorance, carelessness, or complicity

A step to bring more sunshine and accountability to rapid new and secret technology used by law enforcement to the public and Minnesota Legislature has fallen short.  It was more of a document of bewilderment rather than anything else.

By statute every two years the Minnesota Court Administrator's office must file a report to the Minnesota Legislature about electronic surveillance activities that law enforcement does in Minnesota.  Such detail as from previous reports indicated specifically for what crimes, what was used, and so forth.  The 2016 report which was released last month was a very abbreviated version from the ones over the past few decades.  Just compare the 2016 report with any of the others from previous years, quite a difference.  Here is the one from 2014.

What these devices do and with their software is track an individual down to within feet of their exact location.  With add-on of software could intercept content of communication between people.  It is so "secret" on these matters even today the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension refuses to release even the amount they are paying for these surveillance devices to the Harris Corporation.

The report released last month was the first one since the implementation of the new law.  There was no detail about tracking warrants, particularly, how many times the Stingray and their brothers were used and for what purposes. And the reason why?

Tracking warrants were to be unsealed after the order was no longer needed for investigative purposes. There could be extensions for continued sealing but as it was clear in the 2014 legislation, eventually it would be public and even the subject of the surveillance would be notified.  But for nought this has never happened......they all remain sealed and secret.

The promise of scrutiny by the public and Minnesota Legislature of secret law enforcement surveillance activities with use of hush-hush high-tech technology by the 2014 law has been nixed. (The law had a reporting mechanism to be a part of the every two year report, subdivision 5)

It appears that law enforcement and the Minnesota courts could be participating in a culture of secrecy either out of ignorance, carelessness, or just plain complicity in not wanting to follow the law.

For more background on this issue please check out these news pieces by the Fox News affiliate Channel 9 and done by reporter Tom Lyden:

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hennepin County Sheriff systematic destruction of emails and data

This is an email I sent off to a number of people today:

"This is a unique document attached to this email by the Sheriff of Hennepin County.  It highlights a number of reasons why to destroy emails, one being to "mitigate risk".  Could that mean finding out about questionable behavior such as their facial recognition program implementation which the public and Hennepin County Commissioners did not know about?  There other examples I know and can think of.

Another part of the policy says that emails saved for "legitimate law enforcement / business purposes.  Granted one can designate their communication any way they want......but this is not a classification for secrecy or make data not available to the public.  Important that this new designation not be used as a preventive move for people to get access to public data.

The technical destruction may happen or begin December 1st, 2016.

So why a public interest?

It appears that the Sheriff wants to obliterate the past and control what the public should have access to. (30 day destruction and by having less data to go through based on a request)

Emails have the ability to spell out rationale for policies and initiatives.  Absence of documentation on concerns and issues can hinder the public right to know, but also ability to see and understand why.

Emails can detail a trail of individuals and the appropriate ones that have been informed of a problem, situation, or responsibility. The Flint water crisis is an example that shows this through Michigan authorities release of emails.  As so happens many times the public becomes belatedly to knowledge or discover bad or questionable action done by government.  This why data such as emails matters a great deal.

Data such as emails matter in the context of financial accountability, but also of historic framework: putting together how something came about, for example, the Sheriff's facial recognition program or the social media surveillance program known as GeoFeedia that appears the agency is involved with.

Information matters, but when that data is destroyed in such a short time as the Sheriff Rich Stanek is doing, even Hennepin County, the ability of oversight and the power to take the data, a way of self-governing accountability is not achieved.

Rich Neumeister"

The link for the Hennepin County Sheriff destruction of email policy.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

FOIA, Trump/Clinton, and you.

This campaign cycle we have been hearing comments from the presidential candidates and their surrogates saying the media coverage is rigged or efforts by a non-profit organization is a "right-wing" conspiracy against them.  Such entities like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Judicial Watch are using public record laws to look into Donald Trump's and Hillary Clinton's past.

Holding individuals who want to lead the nation accountable is a fundamental thing to do.  This is why efforts using state and federal freedom of information laws has been under attack, it makes the candidates and their operations uncomfortable to answer the questions which the documents raise.

Nevertheless, you can also use the tools of freedom of information laws on a local and state level.  In Minnesota, it is known as the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.  Now I do not expect the reader of this post to read the law (linked above) and do a data request.  There are easier ways to understand the law and your rights to lift the veils of secrecy of government.

How to request information from a agency or entity of a local or state government:

The Information Policy Analysis Division which is part of the Minnesota Department of Administration offers the above suggestion.  They also offer advice  with a model letter how to ask for information from the government.

A simple letter by a citizen to a government agency can cause government and what it does to be exposed and ingenuous.  This is an example which I did in September of 2013.

"Pursuant to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act I wish to inspect and review all government data about the cell phone location tool known as the (Kingfish) including, but not limited to, such items as protocols, procedures, legal thresholds, Attorney opinions, evaluations, correspondence, and results of use."

This elementary request for public data sent off responses that found an agency lying to the public and the Minnesota Legislature about "StingRay."

To hold accountable government is just like holding candidates answerable who want to run for the highest elected office in the land.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Body cameras, attitude, legislature, and what's next

It has been a long time since I last wrote on these pages.  One huge reason why was my experience this past legislative session on the issue of body cameras.  I have said to many it was the most bitterest experience I had at the Minnesota Legislature in being there for four decades.  As many of you know I do not get paid for the work I do at the People's House.  It was time to reflect and assess, which I have done.  Like a "firebird" I have raised myself from the ashes of the past legislative session.  I will still be involved in the process, but with a different focus and effort

What have I been up to.  Here is a sample.  Communication I sent to interested parties today:

Next Monday, August 15, 2016, Public Record Media will be holding a free workshop for the public at the Duluth Public Library, 520 West Superior St.  From: 6:30pm to 8:00pm

This email is a follow up with more detail in which you may have an interest in to share with others or use in an announcement on Facebook or other type of media.

This will be our third year coming to Duluth.  The response from the residents of the Duluth community has been unbelievable. We have had continued interest from the community with communication from them with questions about freedom of information laws and how to use it since our first time in the Zenith City, in 2014.

This year we are a taking a different approach to our program, not necessarily a broad program explaining what freedom of information is.  But focusing on specific elements of the law with two presenters.

JT Haines, Duluth attorney, who has worked with Public Records Media as counsel in past.  He will explain important points about the use of the law to get access to public data.  He has focused as part of his past duties on proposed mining operations in northern Minnesota, such as Twin Metals and NorthMet projects.  He will share his experiences

The other presenter will be Rich Neumeister, an advocate for open government and an avid requester of public records.  The presentation by Mr. Neumeister will focus on the new body camera law which was passed by the Minnesota Legislature.  The law took effect on August 1, 2016.  Many people believe that the use of body cameras will bring transparency and accountability to the public on the use of police powers.  On the other hand, there are umpteen people who believe that the law is so geared towards law enforcement that there is in reality no clarity or onus.  Are they tools of surveillance and investigation............or a gadget to monitor how police do their duties?

Another topic covered in the program will be about the concept of inspection when one goes to the government agency to see and review the data individuals have requested.  In Minnesota law, it is very clear that people have a right to inspect data about their government or data that government has on them.  But in recent years, various agencies and entities are putting roadblocks for the public to get access to government data. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Governor Dayton, veto the body camera bill

Less than several weeks after the determination that Jamar Clark's death (shooting by Minneapolis officer) was justifiable by Hennepin County Attorney Freeman, the Minnesota Legislature will be passing a bill that will nearly make all body camera footage unavailable to the public without going through indomitable barriers and court.

The Conference Committee which reached agreement is being lauded by Senator Latz and Representative Cornish as a balanced bill for transparency, accountability, and as a vehicle of building public trust.  What was not mentioned is the impediments that the individuals including the subjects and public will have in getting access to the footage. Also not cited are the added protections it yields to officers who may be under inquiry, likewise the secrecy of officers bad behavior which the public will never know about or see.

The calls for greater accountability and transparency. nationally and locally with the use of body cameras, is being hacked to zero by the SF 498 Conference Committee report. (agreed upon bill)

Language in the bill allows an officer to review footage which can be evidence before they do a report or make a statement.  A practice that community groups and organizations from NAACP to American Civil Liberties Union oppose.  Made-to-measure statements done by officers is the fear that critics have of this provision. Tainting the evidence.  Officers under investigation for wrong doing would be able to review their own evidence (body camera footage) before the investigators could question them in a formal report or statement setting.

The City of Minneapolis are endowing hundreds of body cameras to their officers to build trust, accountability, and transparency.  This action can show that there is nothing to hide as their officers do their duties on the public streets and be answerable.  But this is for nought. 

The body camera footage is the document, the 21st Century document, the public should be able to have access to the video in situations such as arrest and general use of force situations.  To control body camera video with barricades of judgment and construing such words as what is "substantial bodily harm" or "common sensibilities" means the body cam footage is secret and defeats the purpose of the cameras.

There are parts of the legislation that allows for narrow public access but it is blocked with mechanisms of interpretation by the same agency that the public may have interest in to see if they are doing their job.  Why it is important for clear and unfettered access for the public in specific bearings, such as officer shootings and demonstrable use of force.

The deployment and use of body cameras and what the governing rules should be are knotty and arduous.  But what the Legislature will be passing is not what it should be. Without significant input from grassroots organizations, and the greased passage of bill by the Minnesota House in last 10 days ending with the Conference Committee report yesterday, the bill is the one that law enforcement wants and is chuckling behind the scenes saying......we have fooled the public on this one!

Even so, under current law police departments such as Duluth and Burnsville, as example, have implemented body camera programs and have made accountability and transparency a preference with protecting people's privacy.  Minneapolis is set on doing body cameras whether or not the law changed.  Instead, of rushing through this drastic and exorbitant legislative proposal, the Legislature may want to hold back, but I do not see that happening.

So, who does the responsibility sit upon, the Governor.  Governor Dayton can either sign or veto the body camera bill.  I urge him to veto the bill and the public should also. 

As I said in a previous post:

Governor Dayton can take the lead in doing this by having a task force appointed with various groups and interests represented in a fair and open matter.  With this action the Governor ensures that Minnesotan's will realize what the use of body cameras will do and the power of this new technology and what robust safeguards are needed.  Senate File 498 is not it, the legislation makes law enforcement who have considerable power over the lives of Minnesotan's the least accountable to the public with this new tool.

These are all the posts I have done on body cameras sorted by date.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Minnesota law enforcement neuters police oversight and accountability

Minnesota law enforcement ambitious attempts to improve community trust, transparency, and accountability with use of body cameras took a turn for the worse, with law enforcement agencies and interests themselves lobbying legislators to turn the bill to make it hard to trust, less transparent, and no accountability to and for the public. (say one thing do another)

Lobbyists and lawyers from the Minnesota Police Chiefs Association, League of Minnesota Cities, Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, along with others from similar interests have been putting on great pressure to pass their "owned" bill on the issues that really matter. (Some funded directly or indirectly by taxpayer dollars)  The legislation allows for secrecy of documented police behavior on public streets when they are on duty.  Sets up barriers for subjects and the general public to gain access to body camera videos.  Even the limited footage allowed to the general public allows agencies with broad discretionary power not to release. No specific consent or notice to film you and your abode when agents of government come into your home in non-emergency situations with digitally enhanced cameras, among some of the goodies law enforcement interests got.

Appears that Minnesota Police Chiefs Association are on the same side with the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.....promise transparency and accountability with use of body cameras, but then undercut with doing action and talking out of both sides of their mouths.

Nothing new.  Have seen it many times.  Are legislators really going to buy into these efforts by the special interests of law enforcement without knowing the full ramifications and consequences of these unique bills?

This is the first attempt in 35 years to mass a major shift of police information that have been public to become secret at the Minnesota Legislature with hardly any policymakers asking the tough questions. I asked Rep. Cornish when bill was introduced last year about if he would be open to changes.  The die was already cast with  him telling me whatever the cops want that is what it will be.

I was hoping for changing the culture of how law enforcement works in Minnesota with greater oversight, community trust, accountability. and transparency with body cameras.  It basically is going to be used as an investigative and surveillance tool.

It is important that any body camera law not be used to shield a policeman's nightstick, gun, or power to be used in secret without accountability and transparency.  The body camera issue is complex and the legislation needs to be looked at in detail.  This has not happened.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

When the police enter your home with bodycams

Most of us in Minnesota have come to realize, our home, abode, 'our place' is the "very core" of the Fourth Amendment for the protection of our privacy.  It's where an individuals expectation of privacy is at its highest.

But this is being challenged by new technologies, such as the body camera.  The body camera which is digitally enhanced, possibly high definition, with the ability of what is captured to be magnified, zoomed, looked at and reviewed over and over again.  The body camera systems also have other enhanced features such as facial recognition and LIVE-stream. The video is grabbed and stored by government, in this case, law enforcement.

Body cameras have the ability to diminish the domain of your guaranteed privacy without your consent, knowledge, or wherewith all.  Sizes of body cameras range from the size of a fist to a large button, and technology is even making them smaller with wider angles.

Law enforcement is of the view you consent to have them come into your home, whatever appendages like a body camera they have on whether you notice it or not they can record.

Should law enforcement officers need your specific consent when they knock on your door in non-emergency situations, to record you and the inside your home?  My answer is yes.

A POLICE OFFICER CANNOT ENTER YOUR HOME WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT, UNLESS there is legal warrant or exigent circumstances exist. The law is clear that (1) they must have consent and (2) they must seek at the time they are seeking entry. There is no guessing about what or when. Should officers be able to record and tape in your home without your permission, when they are there for non-emergency services and you give them acceptance to come in your home? My answer is no. Specific consent should be needed.

If one invites an officer in your home in a non-emergency call for service, law enforcement does not want the duty to ask your specific permission to videotape.  That is the issue.  If they must request CONSENT to enter, why are the Police Chief's and other law enforcement interests so opposed to getting CONSENT to create potentially a permanent record of your place of sanctuary????

With the ease of body cameras of their size and where they can be placed and even without your knowledge, in non-emergency situations, when in your home the device is filming as a continuous "search"  (protected by the Fourth Amendment) of anyone or anything that hits it's lenses. The sensitive ears on these devices also pick up the words.

Again this is non-emergency calls such as about dogs barking, cars parked too long on the street, noisy neighbors, writing reports and taking statements which is the great majority of service calls to a home. The police are not calling on you to see if you are drug dealer, or do money laundering, or suspect in a crime.

If two officers come to your home without a warrant or not in exigent circumstances with body cameras rolling continuously their "search" is not limited to the circumstances of what brings them there.

When officers are invited in the home, they do like most of us when one visits someone's house, discovers things visually.  Such as the book that is on the end table or the weird piece of furniture one may have. And one may remember it.

But Minnesotans don't expect law enforcement officers to look at their letter on one's desk, glimpse long into the various rooms that they may pass............But this is what body cameras literally do.

A quick glance in the living room or the bedroom on the way to the kitchen may not inform much with the human eye.  But the digitally enhanced, body camera, possibly high definition, with the ability of what is captured to be magnified, zoomed, looked at and reviewed over and over again can.

This is the nub of the question.  Should government be able to come into your home with a body cam on a non-emergency situation and videotape your words and whatever it sees which far exceeds the rationale for law enforcement being there in the first place without your specific consent to record. Can they do with a body camera running the very thing a warrant protects against - record forever the exact details of your place of abode.  It is technical slight-of-hand to capture evidence.

With body cameras there is intrusion in our homes that is different and unforeseen.  Granted these tools can be used to help law enforcement.  But should they be used in non-emergency situation in our homes without specific consent to record, without a warrant, and not in exigent circumstances.

Law enforcement takes the position that all videotapes will be all private that are filmed in the home, therefore we do not need to get consent or even a strong notification which can enhance an individuals choice.  I disagree with the premise just because the body cam videos are private one does not need consent specific to record in the home.

We live in the 21st Century.  The Fourth Amendment to have real meaning with new technologies such as body cams which is an investigative and surveillance tool needs application of its true context and spirit

 "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly ...

Law enforcement has made it clear in the body camera debate at the Legislature, their position, is that you have NO expectation of privacy IN YOUR OWN HOME. When you invite an officer in your home in a non-emergency situation if you do not know or not notice (remember the size range from large button to fist size of body cameras) or do notice...bye-bye to your Fourth Amendment right to specifically consent to be recorded.

A body camera captures more nuts and bolts (views and hears) than a human eye and ear.  Captured to the cloud or server the body camera footage which the government has can be used and reviewed over and over again.

The home has had a deep and protracted appreciation of "special protection as the center of the private lives of our people."  The Legislature should affirm and acknowledge this and require consent specific to body camera filming in non-emergency situations. Let the Fourth Amendment be realized with this new tech tool, the body camera, draw a firm line at the entrance to the home if there is no warrant or exigent circumstances, consent should be clear cut to record the intimate specifics of an individual and contents of their home.

It is the ordinary citizen who will be fooled by the officer’s friendly demeanor and failure to notify or to request consent to filming. Those in the know, such as lawyers, will condition their consent to an entry on such things as turning the body cam video off, staying in one room, and leaving upon demand. All legal restrictions that most Minnesotans will not think of.

.Updated May 5, 2016

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Senator Latz, tell the whole story

There is no question the issue of body cameras is an intricate and complex one.  Secondly, as someone who has been at the Legislature lobbying for four decades I am very much aware of behavior of this institution and the elected officials who make it their workplace.

When there is a convoluted issue which SF 498 presents to policymakers, for many they may chose to ignore the bill or take partial interest, but for sure they rely on a Senator or two to understand and to explain the bill.  With body cameras, work has been done on this issue by Senator Ron Latz. 

A Chief Author of a bill in my judgement there is a special responsibility to be clear and concise what their bill 'truly does'.  In the case of SF 498, Senator Latz did not do this.

As someone who has been involved in the body camera issue since the fall of 2014 I am very much aware by current law a fair amount of video from body cameras are not available to the public and will never be.

Under current law, video dealing with sexual assault, child abuse, vulnerable adults are among other classifications that video would never be released to the general public.  Secondly, law enforcement has vast discretionary authority to not release the data in many situation and be available to the public. This is a guide issued by the Department of Administration which states the current law.  Matter of fact the City of Burnsville have had body cameras for six years, Duluth has had them for two years, both under current

Senator Latz throughout his advocacy of the bill has used the argument "all data" will become public if the Legislature does not act.  I confronted him about his statements off the floor last year and stated it was misleading. In public testimony it was clearly stated by representatives of Minnesota Coalition on Government Information that current law makes private many of the situations used and described as examples. He continued to even ignore that.

Again, when he stated it yesterday "All of the data collected by the devices is public," I was stunned.

The Senator is entitled to do what ever he wants to do, but when the person is not forthright on a dominant rationale for the bill, sunshine needs to be brought to it.

I disagree with the Senator that the bill is balanced.  And discussion can be done on it's merits, but do not obfuscate and instill fear with not being accurate and on the level.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

However, it's still a secret police bill (body cameras)

When I read the Latz/Cornish (SF498/HF430) body camera legislation for the first time, two points came to mind, it was written by police interests for the police and it was barren of any accountability/transparency mechanisms for the public.  In other words, a secret police bill.

I called it a terrible piece of legislation to both legislators when I saw them to discuss their proposal.  One legislator was very direct to me whatever the cops want that is what it will be.  To the Senator I said it was important for three things for the bill: (1) ability for people to know when they are being filmed, and using a mechanism such as consent or a strong notice provision (particularly when in home);  (2) videos from body cameras filmed in public should remain public with current privacy protections in law;  and (3) to address the fast paced technology of body cameras such as facial recognition, live stream, and the video becoming the "document of record."

There were some revisions on the Senate side, but still tilts towards secrecy.  Currently, the Senate bill does not allow the public general access to any body camera video other than when a dangerous weapon is used, or use of physical coercion that causes substantial bodily harm, and it's in a public place.  In other words, almost all body camera video will never be accessible to the public.

Nevertheless, even with modifications the bill is still dangerous.  The main problem it had, it still has. It maintains to deserve the tag what I said in the first paragraph, it's a secret police bill.

The legislation places overwhelming power with law enforcement agencies.  It allows them to interpret language and be discretionary which makes it hard for the public to get access to body camera videos even in what the current Senate bill proposes.  Even places barriers for the subject of the video to get access.  The bill gives the impression that there is transparency to make police accountable with use of body cameras, but it provides little.

The bill sets out guidelines for the benefit of the law enforcement agency, not for the purpose of why body cameras are being adopted in the first place:.  As Mayor Hodges so clearly stated about body cameras they "bring increased accountability and transparency for both the police officers and for the public."  The bill builds it's wall to help the police agency, but not necessarily the public.

The proposal is is below par and awkwardly written.  It is confounding and and allows interpretations from the agency view to make it defective even for the limited release of body camera videos which the bill proposes  It suppresses access to public data.

The bill clearly states, for example, the video would be released to the public if there was physical coercion when there is substantial bodily harm and if in public, but at the same time an agency could say it does not meet their definition of what "substantial bodily harm" is therefore the video is not released.  So where does that leave the public and the promise of transparency and accountability.

The law enforcement agency can do almost whatever it wants to do with the body camera video collected and stored.

For example, when an officer enters your home with a body camera it collects and gathers a great amount of "government data".  What magazines you read which are on your table, the way you live, the food you may eat which is on the kitchen counter, are among the details it captures.  The role of the body camera is to file and save for another time.  Not to rely on the human eye and memory, but to rewind and enhance the digital film to really see what is going on in your home.  All done without your specific consent to film or possible knowledge of the camera.

An officer told me off-the record how law enforcement agencies are looking forward to the treasure trove of videos they will get for intelligence purposes and parallel investigations.

There is no requirement in the bill for a specific consent provision or notification for body cameras filming in your home when there is not a warrant or emergency situation.

In another section of the Senate bill, it provides that body camera video in an inactive criminal investigation are to be private.  In other words, for example, video that documents arrests, incidents that involve use of hold restraints and use of Tasers, even evidence used such as statements by witnesses will not be available to the public.  It appears also body camera video used in evidence in court where there is a conviction would not be available to the public.

The likely and probable abuse of police power hidden from the public is real.  And daunting.

A recent KARE 11 report highlights what law enforcement officers can do and if it was on body camera video the public or news media would never know with the Senate bill or Cornish's.  Two officers found an individual in a car appeared to be under the influence.  They found out he was a cop.  Rather than cite or arrest him he got the treatment of “Professional Courtesy.”  An attitude given to other officers who find themselves in precarious situations as this officer was.  Per the KARE 11 report:  "He was not taken into custody.  No mugshots were taken.  His car was not towed.  Instead, the Blaine officers helped him arrange a ride home."

The "average Joe" would not get this kind of treatment, but maybe the Mayor, a police chief, local politician may, but we would never know if body cam videos are private and secret.

The bills will close down the ability for the public to oversee if law enforcement are doing their duties in a professional and constitutional manner.  If the public was interested to see if a law enforcement agency or it officers has or is doing racially biased policing (such as the Metro Gang Strike Force) you are out of luck.  No public access.

It precludes and bars access to most of the body camera video that documents the most routine of police actions such as arrest, stop and frisk, searches, and stopping of motor vehicles.  One would not be able to see if the pursuit was justified or if the use of force was necessary based on the resistance by an individual.  No public access.

Basically, all video in the public venue such as an arrest would be private and not available to the public.  How police operate on behalf of the public with the power they have should be able to be scrutinized for accountability.  The Latz/Cornish bills do not allow that.

The Senate bill strengthens law enforcement officials to refuse copies of the video even to those who have a right to it: the subjects.  Because of confused draw up of the bill a subject of the video could be denied a full documented copy of the video because of other subjects right to consent before release.  If no consent from other subjects, that part of the video is redacted, even the police officer who actions are part of the video tape, it appears if there is no consent.

The Latz/Cornish bills are skewed towards law enforcement interests not the public interest.  The bill seems to say government of law enforcement, by law enforcement, and for law enforcement.  The bill makes the public and media go through hoops and court to get the most basic of video to oversee agencies that have great power to arrest, detain, and compromise individual liberties and rights.

As top cop lobbyist, Dennis Flaherty states in public testimony last year before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the use of body cameras is a "new paradigm" which can make officers "more accountable and transparent to the public we serve." but in the same testimony he states "making data public really serves no public purpose." 

Law enforcement need privacy for delicate matters.  There is no question in that.  Current law recognizes that with a number of classifications already for victims and other situations.  The law allows law enforcement a fair amount of discretion already.

But the Latz/Cornish bill is not the approach and policy to take.  It is not an appropriate start for legislation on an issue as complex and intricate on the use of body cameras by Minnesota law enforcement.  And which has a profound impact on our rights of liberty and privacy.  The elemental philosophy underlying the bill is perilous and alarming.  And with three weeks left in session, the legislation cannot be fixed.

The legislation on body cameras this session should die.  Efforts should be put in motion immediately to draft a change to law for the 2017 session. That legislation should deal with the actual issues in a candid, pithy, and unclosed approach.

The data that law enforcement agencies are concerned about can and will be protected under current law til January. As evident by the City of Burnsville who have had body cameras for nearly six years.  Secondly, with recent guidance on body cameras by the Information Policy Analysis Division in regards to the Data Practices Act law enforcement have a lot of tools in their toolkit to keep data from public and the media if they so desire.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Hennepin County Sheriff watching us from afar with drones?

It was not the public that got the first chance to see a drone being flown under the auspices of the Hennepin County Sheriff last Thursday. (March 17, 2016)  But a number of specially invited people including policymakers.  A legislator confirmed being invited, but did not attend because "too busy" at the Capitol.

The acquisition of a drone by the state's largest populated county raises issues that the public has a right to weigh in on.  For example, the broad expansion of surveillance of individuals that greatly increases what "plain view" and public visibility means.

Does the Sheriff' have rules and policies for his own, leased or possible drones?  If Hennepin County Sheriff has policies are they like swiss-cheese with holes that allows for exploitation of these unmanned aerial vehicles with our privacy rights and civil liberties?  Did the Sheriff get the drones with own appropriated dollars from the County specifically approved by elected Commissioner's?  Homeland Security grant?  Or a deal with a vendor for free or low cost?

With no state law on the books yet for drones, will the Sheriff and supposedly other law enforcement agencies who may have them in Minnesota get search warrants?  What is the role of Federal Aviation Administration regulations and authorization which were just recently released?

Under leadership of Sheriff Stanek, (also BCA) there has been past purchases of sophisticated technology such as the KingFish (cell-phone surveillance device) which can and has compromised individual privacy rights. One reason for law change by the Minnesota Legislature in 2014.

Special invitees got notice about Sheriff Stanek's new tech toy, but no member of the media or public. It was clearly emphasized by the Sheriff, no media or public were to be allowed   This is not unusual behavior of law enforcement.  I know because of decades of experience in trying to get data from law enforcement to bring sunshine to their activities.  My most recent long fight was with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on the Stingray.  If law enforcement does not have to tell the public on these kind of matters, they won't.

The behavior of the Hennepin County Sheriff on this issue and other government entities who may be doing the same, absolutely, sending a message to the public, you have no right to know!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Preparing for FOIA birthday

Today I will be interviewed to give my viewpoint about "Freedom of Information." (FOIA)  The interview is part of a film that is being done in celebration of the Federal Freedom of Information law which will celebrate it's 50th birthday on July 4, 2016.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the bill with some reservations.  He made that clear in a formal message attached to the bill:

"This bill in no way impairs the President's power under our Constitution to provide the confidentiality when the national interest so requires.  There are some who have expressed concerns that the language of this bill will be construed in such a way as to impair Government operations.  I do not share that concern.

I agree with LBJ, FOIA has been an important tool to keep government accountable and scrutinized without damage.  The government is still here.

President Lyndon B. Johnson is pictured. | AP Photo

1966: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
 AP Photo 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

What's Minneapolis position on the body cam bills at Legislature?

Minneapolis is a key player with their influence at the Legislature.  Where they stand on the various bills going through the Legislature - for strong transparency and accountability for the public or very limited transparency and accountability for the public.  Are the elected officials speaking or the law enforcement officials of Minneapolis?

I sent this email to City Council members.  I was only able to find four email addresses out of the 13 Council members.

"My name is Rich Neumeister.  I 've been in the forefront of many privacy and open government issues for nearly 4 decades at the Minnesota Legislature.  I am a citizen who lobbies for no money.  My public record what I have done speaks for itself.

I want to encourage you to take interest on what is happening at the Legislature on the issue of body cameras. Being the state's largest City you will have the most body cameras appendaged to officers gathering "government data" (videos).  Many policymakers in your City have stated that you are interested to develop trust with communities in Minneapolis with the police department in using the powerful tool of body cameras.

Even Mayor Hodges stated: "I am proud to support body cameras for all officers: they are an essential tool for holding officers accountable for their behavior, making corrections when necessary, and building community trust, for police officers have the potential to increase public trust in law enforcement, reduce the risk that citizens will not be victims of excessive force and protect officers from unfounded accusations of abuse."

But these goals - which the Mayor has announced and which many in law enforcement and in the political arena support  - are being squelched by special interests or even by the same parties who say they support "transparency and accountability" at the Minnesota Legislature.

There are three bills on the issue that 3 legislators Rep. Scott, Rep. Cornish, and Senator Latz are involved with. Good article in the Pioneer Press today, on those bills and related issues.

So what is Minneapolis's position on these bills?  Specifics?  The Latz/Cornish bills downgrade accountability and transparency.  As top cop lobbyist, Mr. Flaherty states in public testimony last year before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the use of body cameras is a "new paradigm" which can make officers "more accountable and transparent to the public we serve." but in the same testimony he states "making data public really serves no public purpose."  He and his organization, Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, support the Latz/Cornish versions of the body camera bill with very little transparency which then allows "hollow" public accountability.  The Minnesota Police Chiefs Association is basically of same persuasion.

I encourage you as policymakers to speak out on what the City's position through your lobbyists on this important issue.

It is my intent to make sure that if body cameras are to be used by Minnesota law enforcement, they are not a front for accountability which would create more distrust, and continue the legacy of decades of "tension and hostility" in the communities where law enforcement officers serve.  I hearten you to do the same. There are grievances because of abrasive/abusive practices and behavior, "further aggravated by the lack of effective mechanism" to deal with complaints against law enforcement.  Body cameras are being proposed to be an effective mechanism for oversight.

But oversight will be hollow and vacant if the laws that regulate the power of this law enforcement tool do not provide real transparency.

I also support a consent provision which allows people to say no in being filmed in their home, which is the very core of the Fourth Amendments protections in non-emergency situations

Any questions, contact me."

Rich Neumeister