ACLU Urges Caution As New Technology Emerges

Wednesday, January 20th 2016, 8:38 pm
By: News 9

New technology used by police in California has the Oklahoma ACLU speaking out.

Many metro authorities hadn’t even heard of the tool, but still civil rights officials want local law enforcement to use caution as these kinds of products pop up on the market.

It's called "Beware" and its creators tout the tool as a way to alert first responders to potentially dangerous situations. Accessible with an Internet connection, it reportedly scours all kinds of data including arrest reports, property records, web searches and even social media posts.

“I think that that’s very dangerous,” Ryan Kiesel with the Oklahoma ACLU said about its use among police across the country.

“Generally when there’s a new shiny toy on the market, people are going to want to buy it. They’re going to want to test it,” he added.

The problem Kiesel has with the new shiny toy is that it uses the information to come up with a "threat score" for an individual, aimed at giving authorities an idea of what kind of person they may be dealing with before arriving to a call.

“How they interact with that person needs to be based upon the circumstances and facts as they exist right then and there. They don’t need to be trying to make generalizations about us and then acting accordingly,” Kiesel explained.

“Having the most information you can about someone before you engage them tends to usually be a good thing,” said Mark Opgrande with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO).

Deputies and dispatchers with OSCO currently use a Computer Automated Dispatch system, which only keeps track of previous contact with law enforcement.

Opgrande said he can come up with all kinds of scenarios (domestic violence cases, medical calls, violent offenders, etc.) where he said that information would help all involved.

“Instead of just simply showing up and assessing the situation, you could save valuable time by knowing already what has happened in the past at those places,” he said.

Kiesel acknowledged that there is an argument that this could increase public safety, but said there needs to be a public debate, should local police ever decide to use the tool.