When the People Pushing for More Surveillance get the Video Camera turned on Them

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In a recent opinion piece posted on Salon.com, David Sirota wrote about the NYPD’s hypocrisy in regards to the use of high definition video surveillance.

Sirota starts with the point often made by proponents of adding surveillance: “…pervasive snooping and monitoring shouldn’t frighten innocent people, it should only make lawbreakers nervous because they are the only ones with something to hide…that widespread awareness of such surveillance creates a permanent preemptive deterrent to such lawbreaking ever happening in the first place.”

Sirota goes on to point out the hypocrisy “when those who forward the Big Brother logic simultaneously insist such logic shouldn’t apply to them or the governmental agencies they oversee.” Sirota is referring to the NYPD’s on-going campaign to prevent public-monitoring of the police force, a campaign that is being lead by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Bloomberg and Kelly, who are both major proponents of promoting and conducting constant widespread surveillance of citizens throughout New York City, say that public-monitoring of the NYPD could actually endanger the public, with the idea being that “any oversight of the state’s security apparatus undermines that apparatus’ ability to keep us safe because such oversight…causes dangerous second-guessing.” Or, as Sirota puts it in “24” terms, “the theory is that oversight will make Jack Bauer overthink or hesitate during a crisis that requires split-second decisions, and hence, security will be compromised.”

Sirota blasts this theory in his piece, and says that if anything, having the NYPD under publicly-monitored surveillance will ensure that they are doing their job to the fullest extent, which most importantly should include protecting individuals’ civil liberties. With police brutality a constant issue, Sirota says that, “…we should want more officers feeling ‘apprehension’ about breaking civil liberties laws, we should hope more of them ‘give a lot of thought to what the adverse consequences’ will be if they trample someone’s rights.”

This is yet another example of the on-going battle for transparency and fairness in regards to the use of high definition video surveillance and audio recording. Many feel that if their privacy is being infringed upon, then we the public should have the right to monitor those who are monitoring us. In cases across the country, we are seeing citizens testing the boundaries of filming on-duty police officers, which in almost all cases is absolutly legal. Yet, it is abundantly clear that our government and law enforcement agencies do not want us watching them, which of course raises many concerns and will for sure be a talking point going forward. It will be interesting to see how this situation in NYC will affect surveillance protocol and regulations across the country.

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